Alii Drive condo heads to contested case hearing

  • An updated rendering provided Thursday by the developer shows the five-story condominium proposed to be built on Alii Drive. The proposal is heading to a contested case hearing after three neighbors petitioned the Leeward Planning Commission. (Rendering from SMA application/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • An updated rendering provided Thursday by the developer shows the five-story condominium proposed to be built on Alii Drive. The proposal is heading to a contested case hearing after three neighbors petitioned the Leeward Planning Commission. (Rendering from SMA application/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • A proposal to build a five-story condominium on Alii Drive is heading to a contested case hearing after three neighbors petitioned the Leeward Planning Commission. (Rendering from SMA application/Special to West Hawaii Today)

A proposal to build a five-story condominium on Alii Drive is heading to a contested case hearing after three neighbors petitioned the Leeward Planning Commission.

The quasi-judicial contested case hearing, the first in the county in more than three years, will be conducted by a hearing officer, who will submit findings and recommendations to the planning commission for a vote. First, however, the three petitioners and the applicant must agree on a mediator and try to work out their differences.

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The condominium is proposed for a vacant lot about a quarter-mile north of Alii Drive’s intersection with Royal Poinciana Drive in Kailua-Kona.

The project, which would stand about 45 feet and include four two-bedroom/three-bathroom units and two three-bedroom/five-bathroom units, as well as a pool area, would be built on less than a quarter acre on the makai side of Alii Drive, adjacent to the Ala Ka La Condominium. Parking would be located under the building with additional off-street parking planned.

Though the 9,934-square-foot lot has no ocean frontage, the property is located within 200 feet of the shoreline, requiring landowner Jekaterina Mysin to seek a special management area major use permit for the project.

The case is being handled by Deputy Planning Director Jeff Darrow after Planning Director Zendo Kern recused himself because of a possible conflict of interest.

The project has drawn a lot of opposition from residents who contend the concrete building with mirrored windows is a “misplaced monstrosity” that belongs on Oahu or the mainland rather than in Kailua Town. Others decry the loss of vacant land and ocean views and say the property contains Native Hawaiian artifacts and pahoehoe lava features that should be preserved.

“Alii Drive was the choice of our king, chief and chiefess and is the last place we can save historical, cultural and natural resources. Its our kuleana,” Simi McMichael said in testimony to the Leeward Planning Commission last week. “Please malama our aina for the next generation.”

McMichael was one of about a dozen testifiers speaking to the commission in opposition. No one testified in favor of the project. But Mysin’s application contends the project will improve the property.

“This project represents an opportunity to renew stewardship of an unused and long-neglected property in a location well suited and currently zoned for multi-family residential use,” the application’s background report reads. The development is expected to take about 12 months to construct and cost about $1 million.

Three neighbors — George Smith, Jeff Silva and Nancy Capri — were granted standing by the commission as intervenors in the case.

Smith is the condominium association president of the two-story Ala Ka La Condominium. Capri owns and actively farms a five-acre parcel across the street and calls the proposed project “a monster building on a postage stamp.” Silva owns the adjoining 5 acres, where he said he’s restoring heiau and caring for Hawaiian burial sites.

“It is not just the three of us; there’s a whole community out there who have concerns too that aren’t being represented,” Silva said.

Petitioners are given standing to intervene in a contested case hearing must under law have concerns or circumstances separate from concerns of the general public.

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But Planning Commission Chairman Michael Vitousek assured the public there will be another chance for input once the project clears the contest case hearing and comes back before the commission.

“There’s always going to be the involvement of the public throughout the process,” Vitousek said. “This will be a planning commission decision at the end of the day. … No matter what happens it all comes back to us.”