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HOOSER: Money needed to preserve Coco Palms site

The auction of the Coco Palms Hotel held this past Monday at noon on the courthouse steps was at best anti-climatic.

The bottom line is that the “bank/lender” took back the property from the prior would-be developers who owed them the money that was used to purchase the property in the first place. As has been the case in previous attempts to develop the property, the deal-makers were never able to make the deal work.

It was predictable, actually. All of it. It’s like Groundhog day or deja vu all over again. The deal-makers arrive in our community, pledge their love and commitment, promise us the world, seek permit concessions from the county, are granted such concessions, string out the process for years, and then fail.

Full disclosure: When the council vote granting the initial “‘Iniki” permit concessions for this go-around was held, I’m proud to say I voted “no.”

Meanwhile, the buildings burn, the rats infest and the desecration continues.

Remember, this is a deeply sacred place. Properly referenced as Wailuanuiaho‘ano, it’s the birthplace of kings and queens. These are historic crown lands and once-hosted royal compounds, stately temple sites, a royal birthing site and other religious locales.

The eminent residences for the ali‘i were here, and it was the primary domain and seat of government for the reigning chiefs of the Puna moku, or district. Hidden beneath the earth are iwi kupuna — bones of the ancestors.

What’s next?

The community sentiment is unequivocal — no hotel, no resort, no timeshare and no luxury homes. Over 10,000 names have been collected of individuals who oppose a hotel development there. Even the Royal Coconut Coast Resort Association has stated they support converting that parcel into a cultural/educational center. From political leaders to the business community to the grassroots, the people of Kaua‘i are united on this one.

I Ola Wailuanui Working Group member and Kaua‘i Museum Director Chucky Boy Chock, speaking on his own behalf, said it most succinctly, “My pu‘uwai always had a place for Coco Palms….but today my na‘au humbly cries ‘Wailuanuiaho‘ano.’”

The goal of the I Ola Wailuanui Working Group, which I am honored to be a part of, is that Wailuanuiaho‘ano is to be owned by the community, developed by the community, and managed by the community — based first and foremost on a community vision honoring the deep history and culture of this sacred spot. The working group is further committed to a model that those who ultimately lead the discussion are those with ancestral roots in this ‘aina.

So then, what is next? There are two significant bridges yet to be crossed.

A community plan that will bring form to the vision and guide the future development of the property must be completed. It’s not enough to simply state support for a cultural center. What about canoe hale, educational facilities, music and entertainment, fishpond restoration, coconut-harvesting operations, kupuna and keiki gathering places and other possibilities?

The funds must be raised to purchase the property and support the community plan. These funds will come from individuals, trusts, foundations and organizations who share our love and commitment to Kaua‘i and, most of all, to Wailuanuiaho‘ano.

This effort will require everyone to step forward, from the grassroots $20 donation to the major donor $20 million anchor contribution. If you share the love of our island community and want to share in the work and in the satisfaction of helping to make this vision a reality, please join us at wailuanui.org.

Just in case the above is too nuanced. We need a major donor to serve as the lead “anchor contributor” with the capacity to provide the confidence needed for other major donors to step forward. At the end of the day, this vision will become a reality through collaboration and partnerships. Many hands will make light work.

Please help if you can. As always, I am more than willing to speak directly to anyone interested in discussing this or any topic relating to Kauaʻi, Hawai‘i and policy and politics. I can be contacted at GaryLHooser@gmail.com.

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Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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