HILO — There are many hurdles to completing the master-planned Villages of Laiopua, but topping that list is water.
An updated regional plan on Tuesday’s Hawaiian Homes Commission agenda reports the commission allocated $1 million for water development in North Kona and has procured a contractor to prepare environmental studies and preliminary engineering work for two potential well sites. The studies are expected to be completed in January.
The commission postponed action on the 77-page plan update until its December meeting at the request of Bo Kahui, Hawaiian Affairs Committee chairman for the Villages of Laiopua Association. Kahui said he had concerns about some areas of the updated plan and wanted residents and association members to have a chance to read it and weigh in before the commission approves it.
But the water component of the plan isn’t moving fast enough for other association members, who on Monday asked the commission to agree to a memorandum of agreement with Sacramento-based Cannery Commercial LLC and AKT Kona Investors LLC for water source development on 15-25 acres in Holualoa.
Water is needed for homes, but also for a park, they said. The group is asking the state Legislature for $12.5 million in capital improvement funds for a well.
“The fact that 20 years ago, DHHL is supposed to build a park for our kids. … Now these kids are having kids and we still don’t have a park,” said Dora Aio, president of Villages of Laiopua Association. “They play in the streets.”
The 4-acre park has been bulldozed and prepped but it can’t open without water, she said.
The commission, however, wasn’t ready to commit to an agreement that hadn’t been fully vetted by staff.
Some action has been taken on three other priorities, including support of Laiopua 2020 community projects, renewable energy initiatives and a Kona regional park.
Laiopua 2020 completed the construction of its medical center in 2015, but construction of its community center is in progress. Build-out of other portions of its master plan for the community parcel as well as its commercial parcel are pending until additional water credits and additional funding becoming available, according to the plan update.
The Villages of Laiopua includes 572 acres of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands land and an additional 408 acres owned by various landowners. A fifth priority, the development of a burial treatment plan for inadvertent burials, has not yet begun.
The full plan can be accessed here: https://dhhl.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/ITEM-G-4-Exhibit-A-FINAL-Kealakehe-La%CA%BBi-%CA%BB%C5%8Cpua-Regional-Plan-Update-2019.pdf