Kona subdivision seeks council permission

  • About 4 acres of agriculture land (the reddish undeveloped parcel in the center) is up for a change to urban and a subdivision for six homes. (Google Earth screenshot)

Owners of a 4-acre North Kona parcel are seeking a rezoning from agriculture to urban and permission to subdivide it into six residential lots.

The owners, Timothy and Kay Ward of Omaha, Nebraska, agreed to certain concessions suggested by the Leeward Planning Commission after several neighbors expressed concerns about traffic safety and the treatment of archaeological artifacts on the property, which is located Hawaii Belt Road about 300 feet south of its intersection with Kaiminani Drive.

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“We want to be good neighbors and good stewards,” Kay Ward told the Leeward Planning Commission at its May 20 meeting.

The owners agreed to a fence at the southern property boundary, a stop sign at the new access to the cul-de-sac on Ihumoe Street, and a convex traffic mirror.

The County Council Planning Committee plans to take up the issue at its meeting today, scheduled for 1 p.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center. The public can’t attend the meeting due to COVID protocols, but can view the meeting on the county website.

Neighbors testifying at the commission meeting pointed out that a previous owner was fined $10,000 by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for illegally clearing the property.

“It is the desire of our community to see that these archaeological sites are preserved properly and in perpetuity,” said Jamie Funakoshi.

Sandra Akaka described how a pair of endangered Hawaiian hoary bats used to traverse the skies catching insects, which she said were “magical to see.” Once the property was cleared, she never saw them again, she said.

Erik Funakoshi lamented the loss of agricultural land, noting that most Hawaii farms are small acreage parcels.

But consultant John Pipan said the parcel is designated for urban use by the county general plan and the Kona community development plan.

“The proposed state land use boundary amendment would bring the state designation into conformance with the character of the area and the county community plans,” Pipan said. “So the parcel is surrounded by developed properties, and in that respect it’s a perfect candidate for infill, which is supported by the Kona CDP.”

The Planning Department, with Director Zendo Kern recusing himself because he previously represented the Wards on their application, recommended it be approved.

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The Leeward Planning Commission voted to send the application to the County Council with a favorable recommendation.

“So, personally, I feel like this project is reasonable, but even then, will have an effect on the community, and I feel like we’ve identified several mitigation measures that we can impose as conditions that will lessen the impact of the project on the community,” said Commission Chairman Michael Vitousek. “Because, clearly, the community, the folks who are living here have a lot of concerns about that, and we have to take that under heavy consideration while we are doing this.”

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