Leeward planning commissioners delay vote on development


Leeward Planning Commissioners are asking for more information from county departments and the developer of a proposed Hualalai Road subdivision before deciding whether the land should be reclassified as urban and rezoned.

Hualalai Partners of Kona has been proposing variations of the development on a 14.9-acre lot since 2006.

This iteration would eventually create 43 lots, ranging from about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, if the Planning Department ultimately approves a Planned Unit Development Hualalai Partners intends to file.

Commissioners, at the meeting Thursday at the West Hawaii Civic Center, voted to continue the hearing until their next meeting, in September.

The Planning Department’s recommendation was to send the rezoning and land use classification request to the County Council with a positive recommendation.

Nearly two dozen Kona residents testified against the rezoning, noting issues relating to density, traffic on Hualalai Road and even questioning the way the owner, and owners of properties sitting makai of the subject lot, avoided going before the state Land Use Commission.

“The subterfuge of not applying to the state Land Use Commission should not be rewarded,” Kona Traffic Safety Committee member Joel Gimpel said.

Owners of roughly 60 acres of land subdivided the property in 2004 into parcels just shy of 15 acres.

Land use classification boundary amendments on lots larger than 15 acres must be taken to the Land Use Commission, which is a lengthier process than applying for the same action at the county level.

Keauhou mauka resident Harold Murata described Hualalai Road for commissioners.

“Hualalai Road has been a country farm road with farm residences,” Murata said. “The donkey-engineered road is narrow and winding.”

Tom Madson, who lives in a subdivision near the proposed development, provided insight into just how dangerous the road’s curves and steep drop-offs can be.

“Not more than two months ago, a car went off Hualalai Road and lodged in a tree,” Madson said. “All the guardrails, thank God they’re there, because they’re all caved in.”

Other worries included impacts to Holualoa Elementary School, which former teacher Tomoe Nimori said already had 24 students per classroom, and the fact that Hualalai Partners claimed in its application it would provide a north-south connector road through a neighboring subdivision, but still hadn’t secured an easement to use that subdivision’s road.

The latter was a particular point of contention for several testifiers, and even commissioners asked Hualalai Partners’ attorney, Steven Lim, for clarification on that point.

The application said the primary access for the subdivision would run through neighboring subdivisions to Puapuaanui Street, which has a signalized intersection with Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Commissioner Thomas Whittemore wanted to know if the development would be delayed until the easement was granted.

No, Lim said.

“Our property has access to Hualalai Road,” he added.

Commissioners, Lim and Planning Department employees had a lengthy discussion about a condition, recommended by the department, that would require Hualalai Partners to improve Hualalai Road where it fronts the development as well as a lot that comes between the development and the road.

Lim said his clients don’t own that lot and can’t commit to improving the roadway there.

He recommended alternative conditions that either removed the requirement to improve the road fronting the other lot and requiring Hualalai Partners to pay one-sixth the improvement costs.

He picked that figure, he said, because the original parcel was split into six lots.

That would be unlikely to work, Planning Program Manager Daryn Arai said, because one of the six lots already has its entitlements and the county can’t add new conditions after the fact.

Landowner Frederick Barrett was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting.

Three of his sons did, telling commissioners they took offense at some of the testifiers’ comments about their father’s intentions, and claiming the subdivision won’t impact schools because few families with small children will likely purchase $800,000 homes.

Lim laid out what he saw as project benefits — internal connector roads between subdivisions, the Hualalai Road improvements and potential drainage changes that could improve how water moves downhill in the subdivisions.

“If you’re not going to allow this one, I don’t know what other projects you’re going to allow,” Lim said.