Developers of a 38-acre shoreline parcel north of Kohala Kai want to downsize the zoning to create only six lots rather than the 50 currently allowed, but local conservationists would prefer no development there at all.
The developers, Kohala Shores LLC, won unanimous approval Jan. 16 from the Leeward Planning Commission to rezone the property and in a separate 4-2 vote, won approval for a special management area permit, according to a draft copy of the meeting minutes.
“I just want to make a comment that I think the applicant has done a really good job with the plan, and the consultants that have been hired, in my experience, are trustworthy, and I believe they’ ll do the right thing going forward,” said Commissioner Nancy Carr Smith.
Now it’s the County Council’s turn. The council Planning Committee has scheduled the rezoning, Bill 141, for its 11 a.m. meeting Tuesday in Hilo council chambers, with testimony also available via videoconference from the West Hawaii Civic Center, Waimea and Pahoa council offices, the old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.
Toni Withington, who has long been active in efforts to protect and promote coastal access in North Kohala, said the property should be preserved for open space, but the zoning makes it difficult for the government to pay for it.
“What is the highest and best use for this land? And you’ve heard what the owner and their representatives say, the highest and best use is six mega homes. What we are saying is the highest and best use is preservation,” she told the planning commission. “There is a problem with this parcel in that this crazy RS-15 zoning makes it almost impossible for anyone with the right mind to think that the government or the funders would come in and purchase it for open space. … The other thing is that the owner has consistently said that they, he, is singlemindedly wanting to build rich homes on it.”
No one’s offered to buy the property for preservation, said project manager Greg Mooers, representing Nathan Myhrvold, a scientist, former Microsoft exec and Seattle resident who purchased the acreage 21 years ago. Besides, the public has use of a pedestrian shoreline access through the old trail and also historic features are being preserved, he said.
“The issue of preservation, there has never been a formal offer to preserve, or to acquire the land for preservation, and as far as I know, this property has never been on any of the lists that the County, the PONC list, to acquire,” Mooers said. “As a taxpayer, I would have a problem spending, you know, the $11.5 million that Dr. Myhrvold paid for the property to acquire all of the land above the trail and 100 feet below the highway, because that’ s essentially what you would be acquiring. So, I don’t think it’s a reasonable alternative to acquire.”
The 38-acre subdivision, to be located about 3 miles north of Kawaihae Harbor off Akoni Pule Highway, would overlook the Pacific Ocean with the half dozen lots ranging in size from 5 acres to 8 acres for single-family homes.
The proposal for the acreage located directly across Akoni Pule Highway from Kohala Ranch is less dense than those brought forth in 1997 and 2015. In 2015, nine lots were proposed for the site, down from 1997 when the area was zoned by the previous owner, Gentry-Pacific Ltd., zoning for 50 lots.
The new SMA use permit is required for the project as its scope has changed and work will take place near the shoreline, which falls within the state’s defined special management area.
According to the environmental assessment, all building sites would be located mauka of an old coastal-now-Jeep-trail called Ala Loa, with a 50- to 250-foot wide shoreline area below dedicated as an easement for public use. Homes, which would have a maximum height of 25 feet, would be situated at least 100 feet mauka of the trail and at least 150 feet makai of the highway.
Also planned is a four-stall public parking area that would be open from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset, which would access a new 800-foot long, 10-foot wide mauka-makai pedestrian trail to the shoreline, which includes Waiakailio Bay. Access to the subdivision would be via two sites off the highway.