Leeward planners approve S. Kona B&B

A bed and breakfast warned in 2011 that it was operating without the correct permits has continued to do so while pursuing a special permit, Leeward Planning Commissioners learned Thursday.

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A bed and breakfast warned in 2011 that it was operating without the correct permits has continued to do so while pursuing a special permit, Leeward Planning Commissioners learned Thursday.

Commissioners ultimately approved Luana Inn’s special permit application, but not until they had a lengthy discussion on the three-year period between the Planning Department issuing a warning letter to owners Kenneth Okagi and Erin Rene and the couple appearing before the commission this week, and on the property’s water usage. Department of Water Supply officials, in a letter to the Planning Department, said the property averaged about 10,000 gallons per month, while the average expected use was closer to 800 gallons per month.

Commissioner Geraldine Giffin first raised the issue of the water usage.

“It’s not just affecting them, it’s affecting the whole area,” Giffin said. “I don’t see any attempt on the (part of) the applicant to alleviate the overage. It affects their neighbors and even that section of the island.”

Okagi, speaking to commissioners, said the couple had the water bill set up to be automatically paid and hadn’t immediately noticed the increase. The DWS letter, which was written in response to the couple’s special permit application, was the first noticed he received that they were using so much water, although they were aware of some plumbing issues on their Lower Napoopoo Road property.

“We’re so sorry,” Okagi said. “The plumbing has been a nightmare from the get-go on this property.”

He said he has had plumbers to the property several times and would do so again to address the latest leak. He said he recently turned off the water on the property and still saw the water meter turning at a rate of about five gallons per minute.

“We’re literally pouring money into the ground,” he said.

Commission Chairman Brandi Beaudet said he understood Giffin’s concerns, but pointed out that water usage isn’t really within the commission’s or Planning Department’s purview.

“This is a venue to discuss concerns, but I don’t think we’re the decision-making body,” Beaudet said.

Deputy Planning Director Bobby Command said he would raise the issue with Director Duane Kanuha.

Commissioners also questioned the delay between notifying Okagi and Rene that the property was operating without a special permit and the application finally being completed.

“In the past, as long as it wasn’t a significant impact type of use, as long as they were active in getting the permits (they could continue),” Planner Jeff Darrow said. “There have been circumstances in the past we have asked them to stop.”

In this case, Darrow said, several issues, including the need to work with the Department of Land and Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Division and questions about whether the applicant needed to complete an environmental assessment slowed the application process. He said the applicants did work to address all of the issues.

Command said it came down to following a philosophy of helping people become legal, if the use they’re seeking is a permitted use.

Commissioners also approved a five-year time extension for Diamond Resort International Inc. to finish construction on its Alii Drive condominium and commercial complex. A foundation is already in place for the project. William Foulk, the applicant’s representative, said the developer is hoping to have its permit to begin work on Kahakai Road, which is on the makai side of the project, soon and put that project out to bid within a month.

He said he would like to see the entire project completed within three years.

“I have building permits on hand to build it,” he said.

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This is the second extension commissioners have granted the project, which also got an administrative extension about a decade ago.

The complex, located south of Royal Kona Resort, has a foundation, which was laid several years ago. Foulk said the local and national economic slowdowns brought construction at the site to a halt.

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