My Turn: Editorial pity party for poor wealthy developer
The editor’s recent sympathy for that poor Hilo/Honolulu developer in West Hawaii Today’s editorial, “Neighbors’ call for preservation curious,” brought tears to my eyes. It was moving how you educated the public about how, “[t]he legitimate work the developer has done to get this far has been sound.” There is so much more to this story than you told.
But then, your reporter only seemed to appear at the PONC hearing after the public testimony had concluded. But I like the way you turned the suspicion onto the public. After all, the zoning was granted 35 years ago in 1984 when the lands were wide open and area was desperate for development.
And according to county tax records, this developer purchased the two parcels making up the 68.8 acres for $300,000 each in 2015 ($600,000 total). The developer purchased at fire sale prices for speculation, knowing that the development approval plans had expired, knowing that the original developer had failed to renew the development plans as required under the original zoning approval.
According to the county hearings, such property is subject to possible reversion to agriculture classification because of this, and the developer is still running cattle on the property. Clever as it was to turn a PONC public cultural land preservation matter into a sad story about the developer, you seem a little confused about the facts: you seem to praise the developer for bringing affordable housing. Or was that in the prior pro-development article you published in this series?
Either way, the developer has admitted that they have no plans whatsoever to build any affordable housing as part of his development. In fact, the Hilo/ Honolulu developers tells us that any one of these 450 multi-story high density units, at the lower end of scale, will sell at market value for about the same price that this developer paid for the entire property. Not to mention what the exclusive gated-community that they have planned for the wealthy on the mauka half of the development will yield.
You are right to blame the public. Bull-dozing under the few remaining historical reminders of our Hawaiian cultural history is not the issue here. Whether we should preserve the home of the last double-walled canoe slide used to transport the sacred koa trees down the mountain for construction of the Hawaiian canoes, stop developers from building over sacred Hawaiian burial grounds or plowing under the historical farming terraces on one of the last remaining sites in Kona should not matter.
You are right — this is really is about whether we should suspect the community of being anti-development. Let’s just ignore the mandated purpose of PONC to protect Hawaiian cultural history. Instead, we need to teach the community a lesson not to mix issues when it comes to the rights of greedy Hilo/Honolulu developers who stand to make millions by plowing under any remaining historical remnants of Hawaii’s history for profit.
After all, erasing the last vestiges of Hawaii Island’s culture is a small price to pay for what will probably end up being home to vacation rentals and a gated refuge for wealthy outsiders. You are right to support these Hilo/Honolulu developers who come here to make this a better and more prosperous place for western culture.
David Blancett-Maddock is a resident of Kailua-Kona.