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Developer asking for more time to complete Alii Drive project

A mainland-based time share company is seeking a fourth five-year extension to construct dozens of units on a 1.7-acre parcel just south of Kailua Village.

DPM Acquisition LLC, doing business as Diamond Resorts International, needs more time to construct 46 three-bedroom units and 119 parking stalls on the northwestern side of the intersection of Alii Drive and Kahakai Road, north of Kona Reef Condominiums.

The units would be built on an existing concrete parking garage with the structure standing no higher than 45 feet, per the most recent plan approved by the Hawaii County Planning Department in 2017. The area was previously used for a mini golf facility.

The Las Vegas company, which acquired the property in 2013, said it is still in the process of making design modifications after finding the original design would cost $20 million to $20 million more than expected.

That design, to be developed by then-owner Pacific Monarch Resorts, called for a four-story commercial retail office building and 48 two-bedroom condo units with 82 parking stalls and landscaping around the perimeter. Final plan approval was granted in 2007 following granting of a special management area use permit in 1998.

Since the permit was issued three five-year extensions have been granted. The fourth extension request was set to be heard in February 2019, however, the matter was postponed the day of the meeting.

Eight months later, the commission is now set to take up the request during its Thursday meeting, which is being held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 9:30 a.m. meeting will be livestreamed for public viewing on the County of Hawaii Planning Department’s YouTube page.

Planning Director Michael Yee recommended the Leeward Planning Commission approve the time extension, determining that the applicant not meeting deadline the result of “conditions that could not have been foreseen or are beyond the control of the applicant, successors or assigns, and are not the result of their fault or negligence.” The extension also would not be contrary to the General Plan, Kona Community Development Plan or Zoning Code, according to Yee’s recommendation.

However, Judith Ruffner, who owns a unit in the Kona Reef next door, opposes another extension for the project some 22 years after the special management area use permit was granted.

In asking the commission deny the request, Ruffner pointed to how the plans and community have changed over the past two decades; “virtually no progress on the partially-completed concrete structure for the last 12 years;” conditions of granting the third extension haven’t been met; the developer not providing a construction start date; and the need to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy before giving the project a “rubber stamp.”

She also put forth alternatives, including requiring the developer to apply for a new permit based on the new design plans; selling the parcel to the county through the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Commission; selling the land to a developer “who could transform the land into an attractive, revenue-generating business that would benefit instead of detract from the community;” and demolishing the current concrete structure and “restoring the land to its beautiful natural state.”

Oral testimony for Thursday’s meeting may be provided by joining the online meeting or by phone. To register, contact Rachelle Lay at Rachelle.Ley@hawaiicounty.gov or 961-8125 no later than 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Written testimony may be submitted up to two business days prior to the hearing at department’s Hilo and Kona offices or via email to planning@hawaiicounty.gov.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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