Committee delays action on public easement

The County Council’s Finance Committee postponed action on a resolution to accept a public easement through a proposed Kohala Coast development Tuesday while questions over the existence of a historic trail continue to be raised.

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The County Council’s Finance Committee postponed action on a resolution to accept a public easement through a proposed Kohala Coast development Tuesday while questions over the existence of a historic trail continue to be raised.

The easement would allow for a public trail from Akoni Pule Highway to the shoreline but does not take into account the Ala Loa trail, believed to follow a jeep road that runs through the property.

Numerous testifiers spoke in favor of preserving the trail and objected to the proposed public path.

Several Native Hawaiians said acceptance of the easement would result in the abandonment of a trail used by their ancestors.

“I represent the unity that comes from my ancestors,” said Mikahala Roy, “and they speak to us to say there may not be any alteration of the sacred land of Hawaii nei.”

Representatives of developer Kohala Kai LLC said the Territory of Hawaii gave up rights to that portion of the Ala Loa trail long ago.

The proposed development contains seven oceanfront lots ranging in size from 5 to 28 acres. Lots are expected to be sold for $4 million and up.

The land is located north of Kawaihae Harbor and south of Keawewai Gulch.

Several council members also expressed concern over the Ala Loa trail.

“I’d like to know if we’re too late to do anything about that,” said Puna Councilman Zendo Kern.

South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford said the county has the right to protect the trail “in its entirety.”

While believing that public rights to that portion of the trail had been abandoned, the developers said they would accept an easement that did not impact any claims over Ala Loa.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille said she planned to take that into account and meet with Kohala residents to address their concerns, which also included limited parking in the current easement proposal and safety issues. The proposed easement would encompass a 10-foot-wide trail over land that several testifiers said is being undercut by waves.

The committee will consider the resolution again Dec. 17. It also needs approval at the council level.

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The resolution had been postponed in July after similar concerns were raised.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.