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Water Board deal to improve Honokaa water, allow new development

June 25, 2014 - 12:05am

A Honokaa plantation development that has languished almost 40 years is being reborn as a retirement community, thanks to action taken Tuesday by the county Water Board.

The board unanimously approved granting 100 water hookups to Honokaa Plantation Cottages LLC in exchange for an approximately 1-acre plot for a 0.5 million-gallon water tank. The tank will allow the Department of Water Supply to run a 12-inch transmission line makai to Honokaa Town, greatly improving water service there, officials said.

The land for development is about 39 acres between Tex Drive-In on Mamalahoa Highway and Hale Hoola Hamakua, the hospital in Honokaa. Then owned by Hamakua Sugar Co., the property received 107 water hookups, was approved by the state Land Use Commission and zoned RS-10 in the mid- to late-1970s, said Sidney Fuke, a land planner working with owners Roger and Terri Meeker.

Shortly before the plantation folded in the early 1990s, it sold the land to Pheasant Ridge Development, who in turn sold it to the Meekers. Somewhere along the line, the new owners didn’t keep up with the annual payments to hold the water hookups.

“When the property was purchased it got kind of lost,” Fuke told the Water Board.

The Meekers will pay the current price of $5,500 for each of the 100 water hookups, he said. A hookup, or “equivalent unit of water,” equals 400 gallons per day, the average for a single-family home.

Roger Meeker said plans for the development haven’t been finalized, but he thinks it’s an ideal area for senior housing and assisted living facilities, because of the market supplied by aging baby boomers and the proximity to the hospital. He also envisions lots of green space on the hilly property.

Hale Hoola Hamakua, which means Haven of Wellness, is a critical access hospital licensed by the state Department of Health, and is a Medicare- and Medicaid-certified provider. It also has 66 long-term care beds.

Meeker said the water hookups were the only thing keeping them from looking for financing to get their project moving.

“We’ve been working on this about 10 years,” he said. “It’s really still conceptual at this point.”

The agreement with the Water Board will help it move forward on a 12-inch transmission line that, thanks to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, currently runs from the new Ahualoa well mauka to Mamalahoa Highway. The 12-inch line will replace a 6-inch line currently serving Honokaa. Once complete, this will greatly improve water reliability for drinking and fire protection, said Kurt Inaba, Engineering Division chief for the Department of Water Supply.

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