Council kills plans
for Kona development


KAILUA-KONA » The Hawaii County Council failed in a 4-5 vote yesterday to override a veto by Mayor Harry Kim of the controversial 83-acre Clifto's commercial and residential development on Queen Kaahumanu Highway near Kona's Keahole Airport.

The action was a victory for Kim's policy of "concurrency," meaning new projects shouldn't be approved unless roads and other infrastructure will be ready at the same time as the project.

The vote kills the plan by Clifto's Kona Coast LLC to create a 392,000-square-foot shopping center and 390 apartments or condominium units, of which 20 percent would have been "affordable." It also would have created a 250-room hotel to serve nearby Keahole Airport.

In nearly five hours of testimony, public reaction ran against the project 41 to 7. The primary concern was the major increase in traffic that would be generated on the highway, which has been at capacity since the late 1990s.

"The traffic is bad. It's horrible," said John Ray of the Hawaii Leeward Planning Conference. But Ray supported the project because it included an agreement by Clifto's developer Cliff Morris to provide $750,000 to plan widening of the highway.

On Aug. 4, the Council approved the project in a 6-3 vote. There was a clear split between council members from East and West Hawaii, with all three votes against it coming from West Hawaii members who would be most affected.

Following the strong showing of public opposition yesterday, East Hawaii councilman Gary Safarik announced, "I must change." Safarik said his district, lower Puna, has an equally strong need for highways and other infrastructure, and he hoped the council would listen to Puna residents in the future if they made as strong a statement as Kona residents made yesterday.

Hilo Councilman Michael Tulang also changed his vote.

Current zoning of the 83-acre parcel allows "major industrial" development. That could include businesses such as banks, restaurants and home improvement centers, said Clifto's consultant Sydney Fuke.

Morris had also agreed to create a 17-acre, half-mile-long shoreline park on 217 acres of adjoining seafront land he owns. With the Clifto's project dead, the shoreline agreement is also dead, and that land will be sold, he said.


Big Isle mayor warns
of polarization over project

KAILUA-KONA » With tensions between East and West Hawaii rising over Hilo-side support for the unpopular Clifto's project in Kona, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim yesterday warned against polarization and racism.

The polarization he referred to is the belief by some West Hawaii residents that East Hawaii politicians control their destiny, taking their tax money and giving them few services in return.

Since most newcomers from the mainland move to West Hawaii, while East Hawaii has more balance among various ethnic groups, some people see the issues in racial terms, Kim suggested.

"I'm scared by what is happening to Hawaii," he said. "We are on the fringe of almost racism in our differences."

"Please let us work together," he told an audience of about 200 people gathered for a vote on the Clifto's project.

Kim also presented statistics showing West Hawaii got the lion's share of new police officers and all new fire stations in recent years. Most of $40 million in new bonds will go for West Hawaii projects, he said.



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