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Kohala coastline tops PONC priority list

Seven of the top 10 priority land preservation purchases recommended by a county board are in North Kohala, according to a report the administration has submitted to the County Council.

The county is also taking public nominations for land preservation for the 2021 report, with a Feb. 26 deadline. To obtain a form, call Maxine Cutler at the county Property Management /Division at 961-8069.

Acting Mayor Lee Lord, in a Jan. 14 letter to the council, praised the work of the volunteer Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission, known as PONC.

“The commissioners have invested much time and effort into reviewing and considering the various parcels of land recommended by the public and developing their Prioritized List,” Lord said.

The evaluation of public nominations for land acquisition was especially difficult during the coronavirus pandemic, said PONC Chairman Rick Warshauer.

“This year, restrictions resulting from COVID-19 efforts to limit exposure have been challenging and at times awkward, but we have been able to continue our meetings online with remote public ‘attendance’,” Warshauer said in a statement. “Despite not being able to travel together, or at all for some, we continued to perform individual site visits.”

“Some commissioners provided an extenuating effort to compensate for those not able to participate in site visits, due to being high- risk status,” he added. “In doing so, we have strived to expand the scale of site visits this year beyond any previous year, and thus expanded our role of due diligence in gathering and sharing our observations and impressions of the sites visited through verbal Site Visit Reports in our virtual online meetings.”

No. 1 on the list is the 642 acre-Mahukona property owned by a Tampa, Florida, limited liability company. PONC commissioners reported the oceanfront property topped the list because it has the only small boat launching area in North Kohala, there are a large number of significant historic and cultural sites there, there’s a lot of community support that would translate into assistance with maintenance and there’s a willing seller.

Commissioners said protection is urgent because the property has an urban classification and hotel/resort zoning. In addition, 433.8 acres of the coastline to the south made the No. 3 spot on the list.

Two Ka‘u parcels and one in North Kona round out the top 10 list. The Ka‘u property includes the 1,841-acre Kiolakaa parcel listed as priority No. 2 and the 35.3-acre stream-fed upland Ka‘u Ola Mau property with important agricultural roots, prioritized as No. 8.

Coming in No. 9 is a 15,372-square-foot oceanfront parcel sandwiched between two structures near the popular banyans surf spot on Alii Drive known as Keakealaniwahine, the site of a scuttled plan to build a five-story condominium.

The PONC acquisition fund comes from a sweep of 2% annually from county property tax revenues. Another 0.25% is taken for the PONC maintenance fund. The maintenance fund is used for grants to nonprofits to help maintain the property, among other things.

As of Dec. 28, there was $18.1 million in the acquisition fund and $3.3 million in the maintenance fund as of Nov. 30, according to the most recent PONC commission records.

The entire 129-page report can be found at http://records.hawaiicounty.gov/Weblink/0/doc/1011526/Page1.aspx .

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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