Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille and South Kona and Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford grilled planning consultants about two Waikoloa projects Tuesday afternoon.
The first, by Hawaiian Riverbend LLC, proposes upzoning a parcel along Waikoloa Road and Paniolo Avenue from agriculture to village commercial. The council’s Planning Committee, which met Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center, ultimately gave the request a unanimously favorable recommendation in sending it to the full council.
Ford and Wille questioned some of the access to the project and the potential proposed uses of the property, and voiced worries the council will approve the zoning change, then the owners will sell the land. Consultant Sidney Fuke said potential tenants are a senior center and a church.
“My experience is we get plans, they’re never built,” Ford said. “It’s nice to have a plan, but if the building of those facilities never takes place, we, the county, have a problem.”
Wille noted another Kohala development, Puako 1010, received a Planning Department approval Dec. 17, and was listed for sale last week.
“There’s a lot of concerns,” she added. “A lot of them go beyond this development and how developments are handled. … You have right across the street a commercial development that’s half empty.”
Planning Committee Chairman Zendo Kern, from the Puna District, said he liked the plan.
“If they wanted to come up and get a change and there was a new council, they’d still have to come to council,” Kern said. “It’s not promoting sprawl. It’s smart planning. It seems like it’s been well planned out, we’re getting additional park space, we’re getting infrastructure, the conditions are strong.”
The second project to come under scrutiny was another Fuke represents, Waikoloa Mauka’s residential development on the other side of Waikoloa Road from the existing shopping center. That developer was seeking a time extension, which the committee also gave a favorable nod.
Ford and Wille questioned the lack of sidewalks and park and recreational areas. Waikoloa Mauka is dedicating a 10-acre parcel to the county across the street for park space, Fuke said.
“All the kids have to cross Waikoloa (Road) to get to that one (park),” Ford said. “We need to have stuff inside these subdivisions to take care of it. The excuse, we don’t have enough money or it’s expensive to maintain … we’re looking at parcels of land or homes that are going to be $500,000 or more.”
She said the lack of parks and open space in large subdivisions was unacceptable.
Fuke offered to draft amendments for the project’s ordinance that would address the park space.
“If you have 400 lots, you’re not going to have 400 homes being built overnight,” he said. “It’s going to be over 20 years. Then you have underutilized facilities. Who pays for it? Does the homeowner have to pay for it as part of the maintenance fee? As it relates to single-family lots, I think it’s a tough sell.”
Kern warned council members against “picking at” each developer as they approach the council for approvals.
Kern also called for a postponement on a bill he introduced with a new approach to an agricultural tourism bill. The council, Planning Department and two planning commissions have been considering another version for months. Kern said he wanted time to make amendments to the bill, based on public comments. He said he will bring the bill back to the committee at the Feb. 19 meeting in Kona.