KAILUA-KONA — A proposed 11-unit condominium on the makai side of Alii Drive is moving forward again, but some residents are speaking out about it and one petition for standing in a contested case hearing has already been filed in the case.
The Leeward Planning Commission was scheduled to consider a time extension for completing construction of the project at their meeting Thursday, but that meeting has been postponed tentatively to next month.
The development involves a 5-story (which includes a parking area beneath four stories of units) residential condominium complex on a 14,450 square-foot piece of land immediately south of The Banyan Tree condominium on Alii Drive, according to documents filed at the county Planning Department.
At that height, the project would be taller than adjacent properties in the area. Elevation designs put the building’s roof at 43 feet, 8 inches, 16 inches short of the county zoning code’s 45-foot maximum for Resort-Hotel Districts. The project would also have a 42-inch guardrail along the perimeter of the roof as permitted in the zoning code.
The issue before commissioners is whether to extend the deadline for construction on the project to be completed by five more years. That condition was originally part of a Special Management Area use permit that was issued in 2007 to former owner Nui Nalu LLC for an 11-unit condominium.
But those first five years were racked by the 2008 Great Recession, and during that time, the owner filed for bankruptcy and the parcel was purchased out of bankruptcy court in late 2012 by the current owners of Kilohana Makai LLC. That same year, the county planning director administratively extended the permit for another five years in 2012.
Although it’s been years since the current owners bought the property, the request for the time extension argues that it’s only now that demand for the proposed units has returned to the level originally foreseen by the previous owner.
At the time it was issued, the 2007 permit found “no adverse effects from the proposed development,” and that the property is “adequately served” with infrastructure services like water, sewer, transportation and utilities and the application argues there haven’t been any changes in land use, plans or regulations that make the development contrary to why the permit was granted in the first place.
But some residents are speaking out with concerns or objections to the proposal.
Bob Hoxsie, an owner at The Banyan Tree, told commissioners that they ought to consider things he said have changed in the years since the permit was issued, such as the shoreline and opinions on what is acceptable to build in that area. The commission during its meeting took public testimony on the project even though discussion on the subject itself was deferred.
During efforts to repair a seawall at The Banyan Tree after the March 2011 tsunami, Hoxsie said, not only were they told to move it because the shoreline had changed, there was also a lot of opposition to replacing it at all.
“So I just want to make sure that when we’re making decisions about this property — they have a right to develop this property — but when we make decisions about what goes on this property,” he told commissioners, “that we should be looking at what’s acceptable today not what was acceptable in 2007.”
The permit extension documents filed with Planning says a shoreline certification from July 2018 matches the certification submitted for the 2007 permit.
And last week, Simmy McMichael filed a petition for standing in a contested case hearing in the matter on the basis of “saving the surf for Kona and our future generations.”
McMichael said outside the meeting that she filed her petition to make sure all potential impacts to infrastructure and resources are considered before it’s too late.
“You need to hear me,” she said. “You can say ‘no,’ that’s great. But if your inclination is to approve it, you need to sit down with me for days on this, because I have lots of documents, photos, everything.”
Surfer CJ Kanuha also voiced his objections to more development along Alii Drive.
“If it was a park like Pahoehoe Park or something that people could come and enjoy, that would be huge. That’s something that we need, any one of those things on our shoreline,” he said. “Our shoreline needs to be saved.”
And adding more condos on Alii Drive, he said, is only going to exacerbate the existing traffic problems along that road.
“Everything’s bottled up in that area,” he said. “So if there’s any kind of emergency, now we got more people to deal with.”