Our View: Neighbors’ call for preservation curious

Anti-development efforts tend to be as common as two-sided nickels.

So when it comes to creativity, a tip of the hat is due neighbors inside the Kona Vista and Pualani Estates homeowners associations. They’re so opposed to plans for a 450-unit residential development between Lako and Puapuaanui streets, they tried to get the county to buy the 70 project acres as to preserve it.

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The problem?

The land’s actual owner has no intention of selling it. In fact, the land owner wasn’t aware of the effort to put their land up for purchase until contacted by a West Hawaii Today reporter some months ago inquiring about it.

Whoops, sorry for the mix-up.

You think that would be that, but it wasn’t.

A consultant for the landowner had to tell the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission, or PONC, that the owner had zero desire to sell the land they never submitted to the PONC to consider buying.

Instead, the application to preserve the land came from Kona Vista Homeowners Association president John Powell. He submitted the suggestion form nominating the area, saying the site offers great educational opportunities to the region if it can be preserved.

It was an application overwhelmingly endorsed by the Pualani Estates Community Association.

Basically, neighborhoods that didn’t want abutting neighbors put up for sale something they didn’t own.

Prudent? Eh. Practical? Meh. Creative? You bet.

And as far as pushing their request through the proper channels, they did that, too.

The PONC is tasked with keeping a list of lands deemed “worthy of preservation,” and lands can be preserved for a number reasons, such as public outdoor recreation as well as preserving historic sites or natural resources.

Those are all the things neighbors say are driving their motivations to preserve the land.

“I’m not anti-development, but I’m for very conscious, very patient study before we go in and literally erase things,” one neighbor said on Monday, when the PONC took up the issue, as to why they opposed the project.

Except the project’s resistance seems exactly that — anti-development. The legwork the developer has done to get this far has been sound.

The 70-acre Kona Village development is planned to be the last part of the more than 173-acre Kona Vistas project. That project started in 1984 and is located mauka of Kuakini Highway. It also sits within the urban expansion area, according to the county’s Land Use Pattern Allocation Guide.

So the neighborhoods’ sudden interest in archaeological sites comes off as curious.

Why now? Why not the call for preservation when the Land Use Pattern Allocation was being crafted?

That’s the document that outlines future development, among other things, and the preservation request would have seemed mightier had it come up then, when lines were being drawn, not when foundation was about to be poured.

We can’t speak for how deeply concerned anyone is about archaeological sites. But when we read a quote like this from a neighbor — “There’s so much history that we don’t even know about,” — we can say it conjures up for us the image of a quarterback scrambling backward about to turn and heave the ball skyward.

It’s all much ado about nothing anyway.

On Monday, the PONC said it can’t buy what’s not for sale, and sent everyone home.

The next day, ironically, the developer behind the polarizing Banyan’s development on Alii Drive said it would be willing to sell its oceanfront property to the PONC to preserve it. The developer made the decision after meeting with neighbors who opposed the project.

Where that leaves neighbors who oppose the Kona Vistas project, we’re not sure.

But we’d like to point out it’s perfectly OK to oppose a project simply because it’s a pain in the rump. Because it’s an inconvenience. Because, by god, who wants neighbors?

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Nearly everyone suffers from NIMBY, whether they say so or not. But neighbors we all get. Instead of rocks, the associations might be better off keeping up their demands for more roads.

If neighbors are inevitable, at least give us more streets to ease the burden of their annoying cars.