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HOOSER: Time for Coco Palms permit revocation, demolition

Twenty-nine years ago on Sept. 11, 1992, Hurricane ‘Iniki, the most powerful storm to strike Hawai‘i in recorded history, demolished much of Kaua‘i, including that property formerly known as the Coco Palms Hotel.

While the rest of us have rebuilt and moved on, the various and continuously changing amorphous owners of this property, unfortunately, have not. They have instead continued to offer hollow promises, waste the time of our county government, disrespect our community goodwill and desecrate what is arguably one of the most culturally significant lands on our island.

On Tuesday, Sept. 28, the owners/developers are scheduled to continue the charade and present a “status update” to the Kaua‘i Planning Commission.

It’s a shame that our volunteer planning commissioners, our paid professional planning staffers, and the general public, must waste our valuable time yet once again on this.

The “auction on the courthouse steps” occurred less than two months ago, on July 26, with TGI reporting that Private Capital Group, “a Utah-based, short-term loan-servicing company” was the successful bidder at $22.231 million.

It will be interesting to see who shows up purporting to speak for the owner/developer. They will no doubt utilize their by-now well-polished double-speak to reassure the Planning Commission that everything is on track.

Perhaps they will claim the proverbial new buyer is waiting in the wings to step forward to purchase and develop the property, if only the existing permits can remain in place. They will, of course, pay lip service to the cultural and historical importance of the place, and make still more promises to honor and preserve the same.

While Hurricane ‘Iniki occurred in 1992, the original Coco Palms Hotel which the developers are attempting to utilize as their “footprint,” was built in 1953. This means the developers are attempting to utilize not just pre-Hurricane ‘Iniki permit standards from 29 years ago but, actually, those standards in place when the hotel was first constructed nearly 70 years ago.

This makes no sense at all.

So many factors have changed over the past 29 to 70 years (pick your number). The coastline has changed, our population has grown and, of course, the highway and traffic flow has dramatically increased.

The hope of many in the community is that the Planning Commission and the county will soon begin the process to revoke their permits and pull the plug. Enough is enough. At the minimum, the new owners should be forced to demolish the existing structures first, before even asking for new permits based on today’s planning and building standards.

The lands we are discussing are literally the birthplace of Hawaiian royalty. There are ancient fishponds and uncountable iwi kupuna buried beneath the sands now covered by broken-down buildings. Though my ancestors are not from these lands, my blood boils when I think of how they have been treated over the past decades.

Please email your thoughts, hopes and dreams to our Planning Commission today. They, I am sure, share our frustration and want very much to do the right thing. The email address is *Attention Planning Commission, Coco Palms.

For an alternative viewpoint opposing the development of a hotel and instead focused on community ownership based on a community vision, please visit Full disclosure: I am a member of the I Ola Wailuanui Working Group. If you share this vision and want to help, please join us.

Yes, I have a bias. Kaua‘i is my home and I am oh so tired of watching the desecration and feeling the disrespect.


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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