Planners endorse Hualalai Partners proposal


The Leeward Planning Commission is sending a controversial Hualalai Road development to the Hawaii County Council with a positive recommendation.

Hualalai Partners LLC’s proposal to amend the land use boundary for its 14.968-acre parcel from agricultural to urban and rezone the property from agricultural 5-acres to single-family residential-15,000 square feet got a favorable nod Thursday afternoon after considerable discussion of conditions. The commissioners ultimately adopted several conditions, including one tying Hualalai Partners’ final subdivision approval to the construction of or bonding of a road connecting Paulehia Street, within Pualani Estates, to Hualalai Road. That connection will be built within the development makai of Hualalai Partners’ land, in the HuKoPa subdivision, which is owned by relatives of the Hualalai Partners’ owners.

Another condition calls for Hualalai Partners to contribute one-sixth of the cost to improve about 600 feet of Hualalai Road fronting a water tank lot, up to about $83,000.

The positive recommendation came over the objections of surrounding property owners, whose concerns ranged from traffic impacts on Hualalai Road — which county officials acknowledge is substandard — to density.

Mac McInnis noted that while the plan included a “stub out” road to connect the subdivision with Pualena Street, which in turn connects to Puapuaanui Street, the owner of the property between Hualalai Partners’ lot at the existing portion of Pualena Street had no intention of subdividing that property.

The owner “does not have to get his property rezoned to build his retirement home,” McInnis told commissioners. “That is is his intention.”

Other testifiers pointed out that the traffic impact analysis report Hualalai Partners submitted focused on impacts to intersections and not the winding, hilly Hualalai Road, or the pedestrians who use it.

Steve Lim, an attorney representing the applicant, questioned the long-term impacts of the Kona Community Development Plan on proposed projects in West Hawaii. Since the County Council adopted the plan in 2008, Lim claimed, only one rezoning, aside from one- or two-lot requests, had been approved.

“If you don’t do this, you’re going to see a resignation that you don’t do anything in Kona,” Lim said. “I worry for the future of Kona if this project doesn’t go through.”

McInnis, in his testimony, responded to that claim. The problem, he said, isn’t the KCDP.

“The economy went off the cliff in 2008,” he said.

Mark Van Pernis also addressed Lim’s claims.

“There’s over 130,000 units already approved for development in Kona,” Van Pernis said.

Hualalai Partners and the owners of five other lots, which were subdivided from a 96-acre parcel in 2004, were exploiting land use law by creating parcels of less than 15 acres, he added. Larger parcels must go before the state Land Use Commission and not just the county planning commissioners.

Van Pernis also asked about whether the Planning Department ever followed up with former Planning Director Chris Yuen about Yuen’s intentions in adding a clause to the 2004 subdivision of the 96-acre parcel into six lots. Planning Program Manager Daryn Arai said they had and read a letter from Yuen to commissioners and the public.

Hualalai Road is too curvy to accommodate many intersections, and the county did want to see cross connectivity between the eventual subdivision developments, Yuen wrote.

“The basic purpose (of a clause in the subdivision approval) was to make sure that this subdivision didn’t shut off opportunities for road concurrency and make the future development of the area more difficult in the future,” Yuen wrote. “The subdivision clause makes it clear to the owners that they do have to work together in implementing road connections and other infrastructure. If they don’t, they shouldn’t plead that it is unfair to deny them their desired rezoning.”

The proposal will next be heard by the County Council’s Planning Committee.