Kona project wins
Council favor

HILO » The Hawaii County Council appears ready to approve an 83-acre project near Keahole Airport that would include a major shopping center, a hotel with 250 rooms, and condominiums or apartments with 390 rooms.

Yesterday the Council put off a final vote on Clifto's Kona LLC's project for two weeks, to avoid a conflict with the advance-notice provision of the state's open-meetings law.

Council members heard concerns about how the project --and other new developments -- would affect traffic in North Kona, which is already seeing increased road congestion.

The Clifto's project would front Queen Kaahumanu Highway, which reached full capacity six years ago, said Mayor Harry Kim, quoting the state Department of Transportation.

Environmental activist David Kimo Frankel told the Council, "We know the traffic in Kona now is an absolute disaster."

Cliff Morris, of Clifto's, agreed.

"I live here, too," he said. "I'm in the traffic all the time in West Hawaii."

Morris promised up to $750,000 to hire a consultant to plan expansion of "Queen K" to four lanes and turn the plan over to the Department of Transportation. The state intends to do the expansion eventually but has no money for planning or construction.

"This is a way for us to jump-start the highway," Morris said.

Morris promised other public benefits, including a 300-foot-wide strip of land along the shoreline for park use, which would complete 15 miles of shoreline in the area dedicated to open space, Kim said.

Morris also promised to increase the number of condominium or apartment units to 390 from the original 240. Doing so would increase the number of "affordable" units to 20 percent of the total. The figure 20 percent is twice the number of such units the county normally requires.

The County Council agreed to all of the proposals.

Kim said Morris' promise to pay for highway planning still leaves problems. Morris would complete his project in 2006, but the earliest the state could complete highway expansion would be 2009.

Councilman Joe Reynolds said he doubted even the 2009 timetable, since there is no construction money available.

"I have no trust in the state at all," he said.

In May, Kim said he would veto approval for the Clifto's project unless a highway solution is found.

With Clifto's expected to be finished at least three years before the highway, Kim continued to say yesterday, "We've got a problem."

As to any possible new proposals for the area, Kim said there is no way they would get his approval until the highway is widened.


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