According to an application filed in October, a South Kohala company wants to develop about 150 2-acre lots, but there’s a problem: the lot size is a deviation from the 5 acres required by the area’s zoning.
The Planning Director is the sole authority in making decisions about planned unit developments, which allow developers to request variations from county code requirements.
The 1010 Puako project, on 810 acres mauka of Queen Kaahumanu Highway between the Mauna Lani Resort and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, is seeking the planned unit development “to achieve a more comprehensive site design, maximize open space and protect significant environmental features; all while maintaining the rural character of the site,” the application says. “The proposed development will reduce the development footprint, reduce road and related infrastructure improvements while providing opportunities for alternative energy activities permitted with the agriculture zoned district.”
A solar farm is part of 1010 Puako’s proposal, according to the company’s website. Under the existing agriculture zoning, the lots must be 5 acres. PUDs allow for lots as small as 2 acres, which 1010 Puako requested.
The smaller lot size will leave 364 acres of open space, which developers said could house the solar farm, as well as a well they plan to drill. The solar panels, which would stand no higher than 10 feet, 10 inches, would be set back at least 300 feet from Queen Kaahumanu Highway and would be surrounded by a 12-foot-high privacy hedge or berm, the application says. The open space would prevent development from within 1,100 feet from the highway.
Proximity to a Hawaii Electric Light Co. substation and transmission lines at Lalamilo, as well as the ability to provide brackish water for agricultural uses at Lalamilo, are some of the development’s advantages, the application says.
The company purchased the land in 2005 and got tentative approval for a 144-lot subdivision plan in 2010.
The website described 1010 Puako as a green development.
“Imagine state of the art green homes that incorporate unique house plans that work well with the surrounding natural beauty of Hawaii,” puakoland.com said. “The homes will use natural light as much as possible and be built to orient to the sun to provide maximum energy efficiency. … The most up to date green technology will help determine the best ways to preserve the environment including, open spaces, roads, water, agriculture, etc. The community will serve as a blue print of how to create a state of the art, sustainable, off the grid community.”
The South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee wrote to Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd expressing several concerns about the project. In particular, the committee was worried 1010 Puako was trying to skirt the South Kohala Community Development Plan, which calls for a secondary access road in the area, and questioned the request to allow longer cul-de-sac access roads. The county code allows up to 18 lots each, but 1010 Puako would like to build cul-de-sacs with up to 40 lots.
“The applicant specifically asks to have several Hawaii Subdivision Codes waived to save money,” committee chairman Mike Price wrote. “Long dead end roads meeting the legal requirement are difficult enough to evacuate. It’s a no brainer what additional risk is present when longer dead end roads are allowed that compromise response times. … Saving money should not be an excuse for avoiding one’s responsibility for public safety.”