Neighbors battle Mauna Kea hotel

  • Guests of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel enjoy the beach in 2017. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — The association of homeowners at the Mauna Kea Resort is appealing the county’s approval of a subdivision without requiring a shoreline survey and other elements of a special management area.

Attorneys for the community association, the Mauna Kea Resort management and the county squared off before the county Board of Appeals for the second time Friday, with at least one more hearing scheduled before the quasi-judicial board makes a ruling.


At issue is the resort’s subdivision approval to split 4.7 acres off its 203.5 acre property to construct a parking lot for employees and guests of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

The homeowners are concerned that allowing the subdivision and the exemption from the special management area paves the way for previously announced plans by the resort management to construct nine upscale residences 60 feet from the rocky shoreline, said Mauna Kea Community Association attorney Randy Vitousek.

He asked for a number of forward-looking documents from the resort. But resort attorneys contend they’re not relevant to the subdivision and are simply a way for the association to make demands in exchange for its non-interference.

“The association uses opportunities like this — ‘Give us a road map of when we can come in and try to interfere with your development’,” said attorney Derek Simon.

That whole issue didn’t sit well with Board of Appeals Chairman James McCully, who said the board is there to hear the contested case of the current actions.

“The chair is inclined to disregard hypotheticals and speculation about the future (and) the suggestion by the appellant that there’s some confirmed purpose because there’s a segmentation of this,” McCully said.

Vitousek produced records showing a subdivision of the property in 1995 and said the county rules don’t allow the same property to be subdivided using the same exemption from having to do a special management area application more than once.

“If they issued an exemption to subdivide it before, they can’t do it again,” Vitousek said. “We are citizens filing an appeal because we believe the Planning Department didn’t follow its own rules.”

Kathy Garson, an attorney for the resort, said she “vehemently” objected to the 1995 subdivision being brought up late in the process. She said it can’t be ascertained from the record whether the 1995 subdivision used the same exemption.

“It is pure and utter speculation that this exemption was used in 1995,” Garson said. “This is just to drag the proceeding on and drag up random arguments.”


McCully opted to give both parties more time to digest the new information.

“This has occurred very rapidly, this has escalated quite rapidly,” McCully said. “I think it’s fair and obvious that this process has become very complex.”

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