My Turn: Timeshares are off course

I read with great dismay that the developers of Waikoloa Beach Resort want to turn nine holes of open-space golf into 1,164 timeshare units and 25 high-end single family lots, claiming that golf play is down and their 36-hole course unsustainable. These courses were created as an amenity to lure mainland retirees to their resort. They were never intended to be sustainable and now that they are running out of land to develop, the developers who are very financially successful are crying poor-mouth to create this bait and switch.

Luckily this will trigger new SMAs and, I assume, allow for public comment.

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Of all the types of residential development, timeshare is the absolute worst for our island and for us, its residents. These units will be developed by Waikoloa Land Company for its owner a partnership between Transcontinental Corporation of Santa Barbara, California, the Bass Family of Fort Worth, Texas, and ORIX Corporation headquartered in Japan, and Hilton Kingsland 1 LLC, incorporated in the Delaware and headquartered in Virginia. Consequently, the profits generated from the sales of the units in the project will not stay here on the island.

Unlike single family homes and/or condominiums, which are occupied only part of the time, timeshare units are typically occupied 50-plus weeks a year. To make matters worse, timeshare owners usually stay only seven days. This is the least expensive way to “own” something in Hawaii, and those who buy are likewise not the affluent tourist that Hawaii Tourism Authority states they want to attract. They are different from visitors who stay at our already existing hotels, and similar to short term vacation renters who now crowd our residential neighborhoods, parks and beaches and deplete our grocery store shelves.

In general, they arrive on Day 1 and go from the airport directly to Costco and stock up so they don’t have to eat in our restaurants or support our local economy. For the next five days, they drive around our already overcrowded roads to “see the sights” before they leave on Day 7. They often use a disproportionate share of our limited resources as compared to the average hotel guest as they know and go to all our favorite spots with little regard for those of us who live here, because they feel entitled as “owners” of their timeshare week.

When I read Tim Richard’s comments that “the plan makes sense,” I had to ask: To Whom? I would wager a significant sum of money on the fact that Richard’s constituents, people like me, who are spending more and more of our lives sitting in traffic in our little cross-roads town of Waimea emphatically do not support more of this never-ending tourist development on our island. I would like to see a survey to see who, in fact, actually supports this type of growth.

With all the governmental talk of sustainability and diversified agriculture, it’s time to put our money where our mouths are instead of chanting the mantra that mass tourism is our only option. We have now seen what it is like to put all our economic eggs in one basket and then have it tipped over by forces that we can neither control nor predict.

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Watching our country and state try to come to grips with the spread of the coronavirus, I am left with the impression that its more of a when than an if that the supply chain that provides us with 90%-plus of our food is broken. And when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan we will be left scrambling for a lot more than toilet paper.

Ric Rocker is a resident of Waimea.