Bridge Aina Lea insists it will meet its deadline
The land-use panel doubts the builder's progress on homes
A $1 billion Big Island housing development will achieve its promise of 385 affordable homes ready for occupancy by November 2010, a company spokesman told a state panel yesterday.
The announcement came as some members of the state Land Use Commission expressed concern with the pace of Bridge Aina Lea LLC's progress toward that goal.
"After one year it doesn't seem to me that a lot of progress has been made," Commission Chairwoman Lisa Judge said.
Commissioner Randy Piltz said that Bridge Aina Lea had not given the commission an accurate construction schedule. A schedule given to the commission last month referred to elements of the development being started in August 2005 and completed by the end of 2006.
"If you want us to really consider this, you should not be sending dated material to us," Piltz said.
Commissioner Duane Kanuha said the commission does not want to "be the project manager" but at the same time wants to see that the goal of more affordable homes in West Hawaii is met.
Dozens of residents testified at a September 2005 commission meeting on the Big Island that affordable housing is desperately needed on the west side. Many residents who work at Kona Coast resorts live far from their jobs.
In September 2005 the commission struck a deal with Bridge Aina Lea: It would only have to make 20 percent of its 1,924-unit development be affordable for working-class families, if it got the homes completed within five years. The 20 percent ratio is now standard for Hawaii County.
Of the affordable homes, half must be affordable for residents who earn 120 percent of the Big Island median income, and half must be affordable for residents who earn 140 percent of median income.
Former landowner Nansay Hawaii had agreed in the early 1990s to make 60 percent of housing it developed on the same plot of land affordable, but the company never executed its plans.
Despite concerns expressed by commissioners, Hoolae Paoa, Bridge Aina Lea chief executive officer, said the 2010 deadline is still "realistic" for completing the affordable homes.
Paoa said after the commission meeting that more expensive homes in the development might or might not be ready that soon. But he said it was likely that a 25-acre retail complex, which is slated to be developed near the intersection of Mauna Lani Drive and Queen Kaahumanu Highway, would be built by then.
Bridge Aina Lea spokesman and attorney Bernard Bays admitted yesterday that the company's progress was slowed when financial partner Cole Capital/Westwood Development Group dropped out of the project. The company is still seeking a venture capital partner but will proceed with paying for everything until then, Bays said.
Bays showed the Land Use Commission aerial photos taken last week that show the graded area where the shopping center is to go. Bays also told the commission that Bridge Aina Lea:
» Has paid off $21.5 million in mortgages on the land, so "basically the property is free and clear, and its equity can be used to finance infrastructure construction over the coming year."
» Has hired a contractor to drill two nonpotable water wells, which will be used for dust control during construction and later to water a proposed golf course.
» Has a designer making preliminary golf course plans.
» Has paid expenses for Hawaii County to build an emergency road from Waikoloa Village to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, which runs through Bridge Aina Lea's 3,000-acre property.
» Has an agreement with Hawaii County that it will pay the cost of digging up to five new water wells and distribution lines to serve the development and the nearby area.
» Has built one mile of gravel road and graded the shopping complex acreage.
In addition, according to documents filed with the commission, Bridge Aina Lea has hired engineering firm SSFM to design a master drainage plan, mass grading plan for roads, parcels and the golf course and to apply for state pollution control permits for the construction work. The company's $1 million contract over an eight-month period does not include design of roads, electricity, phone or cable systems, drinking water or waste-water systems, landscape irrigation of bikeways and pedestrian walkways. The commission said it wants another update on progress in July.