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Less golf, more timeshares: Leeward Planning Commission advances Waikoloa Resort plans

Fewer holes of golf and more timeshare units could become the name of the game for Waikoloa Resort developers, following approvals Thursday by the Leeward Planning Commission.

After some relatively minor amendments, the commission unanimously approved four special management area use permits and finalized favorable 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 and nine holes at King’s Course but would no longer be required to build two other golf curse that were in the original plans.

Developers have partnered with Stanford Carr to ensure the creation of no less than 142 affordable workforce rental housing units as part of the project. The Waikoloa Beach Resort will be the first resort community in the state to prioritize the development of workforce housing within the resort’s footprint. That could increase to 228 units pending housing permits at the state level.

The workforce housing component has some supporters. Kanani Aton, community outreach specialist for Kumu Hou, said her son sleeps in his truck during the week in order to be closer to his job in the resort area. There simply isn’t functional housing at a price workers can afford, she said.

“Kumu Hou is a thoughtful development,” Aton said.

But David Gross, a resident of Villages at Mauna Lani, said it doesn’t make sense to put workforce housing within resorts. Resorts have a transient population that may not lead to a feeling of community and they lack many of the facilities residents need such as grocery stores, post offices, banks, public parks for children, schools and the like, he said.

“Everybody agrees that adding workforce housing on Hawaii Island is needed and essential,”Gross said. “We owe it to them to be responsible in choosing common sense locations where they can live.”

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 build-out 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.

Commission Chairman Michael Vitousek wanted reassurances that developers would meet some kind of timeline before he would approve the six measures.

He noted the long period until build-out and said there are no timetables to ensure development proceeds.

“Are we just entitlement banking or is there an actual plan?” Vitousek asked.

“We need the entitlement first and then we can do the detailed planning,” said John Plunkett, representing Waikoloa Land Co.

He said the developer would ultimately bring in a timeshare operator and proceed building the buildings one at a time.

“Our first project is to get the entitlements to actually do it, but we do have to have a significant amount of latitude to adjust for the market,” Plunkett said.

The Planning Commission ultimately added its own timeline to the conditions, allowing an administrative five-year time extension and then a second 5-year extension where the commission would consider the “extent to which the proposed action had changed in size, scope, intensity, use location or timing among other things and/or whether there have been changes in the environment or community where the project is located such that the impact of the project would be substantially different from the potential impacts at the time the permit was granted.”

Commissioners also added requirements for the extension of Puakala Place and an updated public access plan, “taking into consideration the adequacy of the current shoreline public access.”

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

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