Sides clash at meeting
about luxury development

KAILUA-KONA » A meeting meant to urge state lawmakers to intervene in the case of a stalled luxury subdivision in South Kona turned heated last weekend.

About 200 supporters and opponents of the Hokulia development project packed Konawaena Elementary School on Sunday for the meeting organized by a group of project supporters called Kids of Kona. The gathering was aimed at urging legislators to intervene and allow the residential project to proceed.

The 1,540-acre subdivision above Kealakekua Bay was shut down in 2003 by a state judge who ruled it was illegal to build luxury homes on land zoned for agriculture.

Enthusiastic applause and boos greeted some of those who spoke during the meeting.

"I think it's horrible what happened down here on these makai lands," William Paris, a proponent of the project, said about the land between the highway and the shore. "They've tried to farm on them ... and then a drought will hit and the farmers go broke. These lands need to be reclassified."

While Paris' words were met with rousing applause, several people walked out when Jack Kelly, a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against the project, was announced as the next speaker.

Kelly was the third Hokulia opponent in a row randomly selected to speak at the event, which upset supporters of the project.

"First, (Protect Keopuka Ohana) is not about developing or not developing. It's about the violation of public trust and the lack of enforcement of laws already on the books," Kelly said. "We're not about stopping development or highways. We have to do things the right way, or else all these public trust resources are not going to be used. It's up to us to pick up the ball."

Construction on the Hokulia project began in early 1998 but was stopped in September 2003 after Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra ruled the project -- which featured plans for 750 home lots ranging from $1 million to $8 million, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a spa, tennis courts, a beach house and a club -- violated state laws on agricultural land use.

Attempts to mediate a settlement failed, and the developer, 1250 Oceanside Partners, filed an appeal, which might take years.

Lawmakers have yet to pass any bills to finally settle the Hokulia issue.

Legislators at the meeting included Big Island Sens. Russell Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu) and Paul Whalen (R, Milolii-Waimea), and Reps. Bob Herkes (D, Volcano-Kainaliu), Cindy Evans (D, Makalawena-Waimea), Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise) and Committee on Water, Land and Ocean Resources Chairman Ezra Kanoho (D, Wailua-Koloa).

The lawmakers did not offer new solutions to the Hokulia conflict and instead reiterated that rezoning the land from agricultural to rural use is up to the county.

"The legislative process deals with 76 individuals, and that's why no actions have been taken," Say said. "This is not just a Hokulia problem, but it is a statewide problem."

Hawaii State Legislature

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