Conceptual plan in the works to help residents displaced by lava flow

  • The second parcel proposed as a housing site for those displaced by the Kilauea eruption. It borders Highway 130 and is located between Pahoa and Ainaloa.

  • The first of two parcels of state land state Sen. Russell Ruderman is proposing as a housing site for those displaced by the Kilauea eruption. It borders Highway 130 and Railroad Avenue and is between Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Paradise Park. (Photos Courtesy/office of SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN)

Mayor Harry Kim is hoping to have a conceptual plan for a Kaikoo-style redevelopment project to help those displaced by the Kilauea eruption drafted within a month.

Kim said a committee consisting of representatives from Hawaii County, the state, Federal Emergency Management Agency and consultants are working on the issue, and has met twice so far.

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“Our plan must be comprehensive, and we absolutely must know what the needs are,” Kim said.

The Kaikoo project allowed Hilo residents displaced by the 1960 tsunami to use state land for housing or businesses. The state law that allowed that to happen is still on the books.

Kim said he was a college student at the time of the tsunami and was a “gofer” for government agencies during the response efforts.

“I learned a lot,” he said, from that experience. “And, by golly, they did it.”

“If I do my job — and I will do my job — I hope to get a conceptual plan finished within a month,” Kim later added.

He noted that before they can offer specifics, they will need to first assess the need.

“It takes a little time to do that,” Kim said. “Hopefully, we will do it as soon as possible.”

But he also suggested that residents shouldn’t move back into Lava Zone 1.

“I think (the county) should review the fact that it is not wise to allow people to build” there, Kim said.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Democrat representing Puna and Ka‘u, thinks the state and county could move fairly quickly with establishing a new community for the hundreds of residents who have lost their homes.

He’s proposing use of undeveloped state land on both sides of Highway 130. The “makai parcel” is between Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Paradise Park, while the “mauka parcel” is between Pahoa and Ainaloa.

He said the parcels are located in Lava Zone 3 and have access to power and county water.

Ruderman said the land could be licensed to a nonprofit, such as Habitat for Humanity, that could provide long-term leases to those who lost their homes or help them build new residences. He said agricultural lots also could be provided.

Those who accept a parcel would give their inundated lot to the state.

Ruderman said the goal is to “take care with aloha and make it better than it was” for those who lost everything.

He said he presented his proposal to Kim and Gov. David Ige.

The mayor said the proposal is being considered.

“I told him at the time our program we are looking into is very, very comprehensive which would include ideas of his,” Kim said.

Hershel Hood, who lost his home in Lanipuna Gardens, backs Ruderman’s idea.

Hood said he and his wife had enough time to grab two bags of clothes and one bag of documents. He said they’ve had trouble finding affordable housing and are living in an attic above a Pahoa restaurant.

“My goal is to not let it die,” Hood said about the proposal. “This is what we hope for.”

Between 450 and 500 people were in shelters in Pahoa and Keaau on Wednesday, according to county Civil Defense.

Churches and nonprofit groups are helping to build “micro-units” as transitional housing.

Twenty such units were constructed last Saturday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pahoa.

Pastor Dion Maeda of Connect Point Church said his church is proposing to build another 10 of the 120-square-foot shelters in Hawaiian Paradise Park. He said the church is awaiting approval from the county.

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To donate or volunteer, Maeda can be contacted at 937-6968.

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