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Leeward Planning Commission uncertain on Waikoloa Resort plan

The Leeward Planning Commission had more questions than answers last week and held back approval of a timeshare and residential development for Waikoloa Resort that would consume half of one of the resort’s two golf courses.

The commission plans to take the applications up again at its Dec. 16 meeting, when it will decide four special management area use permits and finalize recommendations to the County Council on two rezoning applications needed to make developers’ plans a reality.

Kumu Hou at Waikoloa would feature 1,164 timeshare units and 25 single-family home lots on 183 acres currently part of the 18-hole Kings’ Course in Waikoloa Beach Resort. The developer, Waikoloa Land Co., representing landowners Waikoloa Development Co. and Hilton Kingsland 1 LLC, would keep the 18-hole Beach Course in operation.

The resort currently comprises 1,604 visitor units and 1,810 residential units, including timeshares, multifamily condominiums and single-family home lots. The project holds entitlements from previous county actions for 6,365 units, including 3,000 visitor units and 3,365 residential units. Developers anticipate buildout would occur in 2043 and create more than 1,000 permanent jobs while adding an estimated $10 million more in taxes for the county per year.

Sticking points for the commission Thursday included workforce housing, police/fire impact and connectivity to the north as well as carrying capacity of the shoreline with the increased resort population and how much public access would be accommodated at the beach.

Planning consultant Sydney Fuke, one of a half dozen people representing development interests, asked the commission to move forward, promising developers would fill in the gaps as the project proceeded. Commissioner Barbara DeFranco favored that approach, saying the developer had a long and positive track record in the community.

Among those submitting written testimony to the commission, 176 supported the project and four opposed, said county Planning Department staff.

But commissioners wanted more assurances.

“I do want to point out that although this project does have quite bit of community benefit, it’s still an ask of the county to eliminate open space,” said commission Chairman Mike Vitousek.

Commissioners also sought clarification on an agreement between Waikoloa Land Co. and Stanford Carr Development LLC that would result in construction of at least 142 affordable workforce rental housing units. Waikoloa Land Co. has agreed to donate land and install the infrastructure while Stanford Carr would work for necessary permits through the state 201H process that allows it to skip certain conditions of county and state laws.

Commissioners said the workforce housing is important and they’d like to see a greater commitment from the developer as part of the permit applications. The resort area draws a lot of its workers from as far away as Puna, and there needs to be housing closer to their jobs, they said.

“To me, it’s a big deal especially for young people with families that do need a place to stay and do need to be with their families,” said Commissioner Faith Yates. “It’s really bad when you have to everyday go back and forth, back and forth because you don’t have choice.”

The workforce housing is an extra benefit but it’s not a part of the development applications with the county, Planning staff said. Waikoloa Land Co. had already satisfied its affordable housing obligations in the initial stages of the development, they said.

“This component is extra on top of that,” said Planning Director Zendo Kern.

Developers have also pledged a portion of the timeshare revenues totaling $50 million as the project matured, would be donated to the Waikoloa Foundation, a philanthropic sister organization to the Waikoloa Land Co., for tourism management projects and study ways to buffer fishponds and beaches from rising sea levels, said Cary Boeddeker, chairwoman of the foundation.

“This monumental endowment will be used through the island,” Boeddeker said.

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

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