My Turn: Planning ahead

It was very disappointing to read in the March 19 edition of the West Hawaii Today that the Leeward Planning Commission approved a five-bedroom Bed and Breakfast establishment on Alii Drive.

The Planning Department recommended approval requiring the owner to convert the current cesspool to a septic system within five years “if determined feasible.” And what happens if it is determined not feasible, which is most likely considering the size of the lot?

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What Commission Chairman Michael Vitousek called “a very reasonable short-term solution and a long-term solution if that’s feasible,” is being irresponsible to the people of Kona, and the environment. It is not a solution to allow a bed and breakfast to exist there for five years without having to fix anything.

As to long-term, we all know there will not be a sewer improvement district in that area for a long, long time.

Alex Roy of the Hawaii County Planning Department advocated for a “more comprehensive fix, a system-wide fix.” That makes sense, so meanwhile don’t approve applications that will exacerbate the problems. Why did the Planning Department recommend approval?

Vitousek goes on to say that, “Definitely a cesspool on an oceanfront lot is basically going to pump sewage into the ocean.” So why approve an application that increases the amount of wastewater?

Then, the Department of Water Supply estimates the new permit will increase water usage from its current level. More water equals more waste.

Commissioner Mark Van Pernis says, “I disagree we should do nothing and hope other agencies will do something.” Then he voted in favor as did all the commissioners.

So, in the short-term this bed and breakfast will not only continue to pollute the ocean but the amount of pollution will increase. A long-term solution is so far off it isn’t feasible for 20 to 30 years.

By the way, the Office of Environmental Management had nothing to say!

The owner “pumping money” into the project and “trying to contribute to the economy” does not make it right for approval.

Here’s an alternative idea: the county should continue to purchase oceanside properties along Alii Drive, demolish any current homes on said lots and turn them into people friendly mini-parks. PONC (Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resource Preservation) funds can be used as they recently were to purchase Puapua‘a properties. The owners along Alii Drive need to face reality. Ocean levels are rising, climate and weather patterns are changing and those home will eventually succumb to the ocean. Many have already suffered damage whenever there have been storms creating water surges.

The new parks can be small, walk-to or bike-to parks for all to enjoy. When the parks become no longer accessible it will not be such a catastrophic loss.

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We need to look far into the future and not continue to make the same mistakes.

Dan Sabo is a resident of Kailua-Kona.