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HOOSER: Muddy waters of Coco Palms

Tuesday, Jan. 24, could be a big day for the perennially promised and never fulfilled Coco Palms development.

The Kaua‘i Planning Commission is scheduled to hear arguments and vote on the Petition for Declaratory Order, filed by attorney Teresa Tico on behalf of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA); Sierra Club Kaua‘i Group; Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i Chapter; and individual Judith Ann Dalton relating to the Coco Palms hotel development. Full disclosure: I am the volunteer board president of HAPA.

The petition essentially states that according to law and court precedent, the permits issued to Coco Palms Hui in 2015 have lapsed due to their failure to make “substantial progress.”

The actual public notice for this meeting had not yet been issued at deadline. To confirm the meetings date and agenda email planningdepartment@kauai.gov

It’s pretty obvious to anyone driving by the property today that there has most definitely not been any “substantial progress” over the past eight years, let alone the past 30 years. And installing a construction dust screen just days before they are supposed to prove “substantial progress” does not fulfill the intent of the law.

Further, the permits granted in 2015 allowing the developer to ignore important existing county building rules and regulations were amended in 2018 after the “‘Iniki Ordinance” had already expired. This is special legislation on top of special legislation.

To further muddy the waters, the new chair of the Kaua‘i Planning Commission is also the Kaua‘i representative for the Hawai‘i Carpenters Union, whose members it would seem may have a direct financial benefit should the Coco Palms development move forward.

There is also a separate lawsuit that’s been filed against the state of Hawai‘i and the Coco Palms developer/owner alleging their failure to conduct an environmental impact statement on state lands that are part of the overall development.

This weekly opinion column “Policy & Politics” obviously reflects my opinion, which is in full support of I Ola Wailuanui, its vision and the community plan being developed for Wailuanuiho‘ano.

Wailuanuiho‘ano and what many know as the former Coco Palms Resort is a uniquely special and sacred area.

The site is surrounded by ancient sacred he‘iau from the mouth of the Wailua River to the summit of Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale. The last queen of Kaua‘i, Queen Deborah Kapule, lived on the property, and it was the birthing place for royalty.

Wailuanuiho‘ano was the site of astronomical tracking of the rising heavens, and a gathering place and social headquarters in ancient Hawai‘i.

Two ancient loko i ‘a, Loko Pu‘uone (or Loko Hakuone) — inland fishponds Weuweu and Kaiwi‘iki (or Kawai‘iki) — are still present on the property. These fishponds are estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old. Mahele records also show the seaward portion encompasses Mahunapu‘uone burial grounds.

I Ola Wailuanui envisions the acquisition, restoration, protection and ongoing stewardship of these important lands via a community driven process that honors the deep history of this place, both ancient and modern, and led by individuals with ancestral ties and rooted to this ‘aina.

Rather than a private hotel development, I Ola Wailuanui envisions a public place of cultural enrichment, historic preservation, land conservation and spiritual nourishment; an educational and interpretive gathering place; a center of Hawaiian cultural stewardship; a place of food production: and a core place for learning in Hawai‘i.

I Ola Wailuanui is a Kaua‘i-based hui now securing 501c3 nonprofit status and presently working with other established 501c3 organizations including those with experience in the acquisition and management of lands intended for preservation and conservation. See https://www.wailuanui.org. I stand in full support of the I Ola Wailuanui vision. If you are a resident of Kaua‘i and share that sentiment, please email your statement of support for the vision AND support for the Petition for Declaratory Order to planningdepartment@kauai.gov #attention all Planning Commissioners, AND with a copy to IOlaWailuanui@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 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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