Wednesday | August 24, 2016
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Aina Lea rises again Work appears to be going on at long-promised development

Work appears to have restarted at the Aina Lea development in recent months, after a 3rd Circuit Court judge threw out a Land Use Commission decision to rescind the project’s urban classification.

The extent of the work was unclear Tuesday. A message left for DW Aina Lea CEO and Manager Robert Wessels was not immediately returned. But the construction firm initially retained for the project, Goodfellow Bros., is not doing any of the work, Region Manager Ed Brown said.

Goodfellow Bros. took Aina Lea to court in December over missed payments. The construction company’s attorneys claimed Aina Lea was supposed to be paying the company a portion of each undivided land fraction sold at the South Kohala development. Other records indicated Aina Lea was $5.5 million behind in payments to Goodfellow.

Brown said Tuesday the issue went to arbitration, which has been completed but the final decision had not yet been relayed to the company. He said he was unable to provide additional details about the arbitration.

He disputed Wessels’ comments in a December 2011 letter about an escrow hold back for the project.

Wessels wrote in the letter to Capital Asia Group and its marketing team that Aina Lea placed $720,000 of the unpaid $5.5 million in escrow hold back because Goodfellow Bros. “has not completed these requirements,” referring to engineering design and permitting.

Brown said Goodfellow Bros. never did any work at the site without the appropriate permits, and said the court ordered the escrow company to hold back the money during the arbitration process, not Aina Lea.

A message left for another construction company, believed to be working at the site, was not returned.

The state Attorney General’s Office in mid-July filed an appeal of Judge Elizabeth Strance’s December ruling that overturned the order to rescind Aina Lea’s urban classification for the property, which has been bought and sold by a series of developers, each of which brought a new project to the commission. Developers asked several commissions to reduce affordable housing requirements and relax other conditions.

No hearings have yet been scheduled on the case, which was filed with the Intermediate Court of Appeals. Strance in December said the commission overstepped its authority when it reverted the land from urban to agricultural.

The commission originally voted in 2009 to revert the land classification, then gave Wessels and DW Aina Lea until November 2010 to complete 385 affordable housing units and the accompanying infrastructure.

The project, on 1,060 acres, was initially classified urban in 1989, at the request of original owner Signal Puako Corporation. That company sold the project to Puako Hawaii Properties in 1991. It sold the property to Bridge Aina Lea, which, in 2005, got the commission to significantly reduce the amount of affordable housing to be built on the propert in exchange for committing to firm construction deadlines. Bridge Aina Lea, failing to meet those deadlines, began selling the property, in several parcels, to DW Aina Lea in 2009.