Hokulia

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Hōkūli‘a, a disputed project located on the island of Hawai'i, near Kealakekua Bay on the border between North Kona and South Kona. The project covers approximately 1,550 acres of land, which includes roughly two and one-half miles of shoreline, and rises to an elevation of approximately 1,250 feet. Hōkūli‘a is being developed by Oceanside 1250, a partnership of Lyle H. Anderson and an affiliate of Japan Airlines. Oceanside began development and lot sales in 1998.

The development was to include:

  • 730 Home sites on agriculturally zoned land ranging in price from $1 million to $8 million.
  • a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
  • a 140-acre public shoreline park.
  • an 80-unit lodge to be used by Hōkūli‘a residents and their guests.

In 1998, Hawaii County officials granted Hōkūli‘a a building permit. Oceanside had sought approval under a loophole in a 1976 law that allowed the conversion of agricultural land as long as the development included some farming component, thus bypassing the state Land Use Commission approval to reclassify the agriculture zoned land as urban.

In 2000, heavy rains sent runoff from Hōkūli‘a into Kealakekua Bay. Acting on a request from environmentalists and farmers, Judge Ibarra halted construction until better runoff controls were built.

In March 2001, a bulldozer punctured a lava cave where native Hawaiian remains were buried, and construction was ordered halted again. Protect Keopuka Ohana had protested disturbing of remains due to construction.

In 2003, Judge Ronald Ibarra halted construction of the $1 billion project saying 1,550-acre Hōkūli‘a was a luxury-home development and not a farming venture. As part of its decision, the court stopped the county from issuing building permits to buyers, and enjoined Oceanside from providing utilities to the homes already under construction. The court also prevented Oceanside from maintaining and repairing project infrastructure without court approval. Oceanside could not resume the development of Hōkūli‘a unless the state Land Use Commission changed the zoning of Hōkūli‘a lands from an agricultural to urban designation. At this point, Oceanside 1250 had sold more than 190 home sites and had invested more than $350,000,000 in Hōkūli‘a.

August 27, 2004, a trial court in Kona entered a final judgment, generally enjoining further development at Hōkūli‘a.

In November 2004, Oceanside 1250 asked the Hawaii State Supreme Court to reverse the trial court's land use decision, as it lacked jurisdiction over the case. The Supreme Court was asked to expedite the appeal, if motion to dismiss was not granted. Hōkūli‘a lot owners filed their own pleadings with the Hawaii State Supreme Court asking that the trial court's decision be promptly reversed.

In July 2005, 1250 Oceanside Partners made a new settlement offer to the five plaintiffs in the Hōkūli‘a case which was outright rejected by two plaintiffs. All attempts to mediate a settlement failed.

In September 2005, the Hawaii State Supreme Court turned down a Hawaii County request to speed up a review of the controversial Hōkūli‘a case in Kona.

In October 2005, more than 150 individuals who bought into the Hōkūli‘a development sued Hawaii County and the state of Hawaii, seeking $265 million in damages.

In March 14, 2006, a settlement was finalized between 1250 Oceanside Partners and plaintiffs, which Judge Ibarra approved. According to a Honolulu Advertiser article dated March 15, 2006, the settlement package includes:

The package of community benefits Hokuli'a agreed to in the settlement requires the developer to:
  • Build up to 168 affordable homes.
  • Contribute $2 million over five years to a nonprofit foundation that benefits the community. The money would be earmarked for drug-treatment programs, Kona Community Hospital, student scholarships and to boost public school teacher pay.
  • Contribute another $1.2 million to nonprofit organizations named by the plaintiffs in the case.
  • Build a connector road that would allow Kona commuters to use a nearly completed portion of the Mamalahoa Bypass highway, thereby easing some of the area's traffic congestion. That portion of that roadway, from Keauhou to Haleki'i Street, is 80 percent finished, De Fries said, but has not been opened for public use.
  • Scale back the Hokuli'a project to 665 units from the previously planned 750 units.
  • Drop plans for a members' lodge at Hokuli'a, an aspect of the project that under a ruling by Ibarra would have required the approval of the state Land Use Commission in any event.
  • Expand the area of the project designated for conservation, sacrificing five lots to add to acreage that would be preserved around a burial site at Pu'u Ohau.
  • Expand the Kona Scenic Park with a donation of three more adjoining acres.
  • Provide enhanced water-quality monitoring in the ocean at the project site and pay for a shoreline water-quality study for the area. The study would involve collecting baseline data to be studied before new developments are launched.
"I think it's good, PKO is happy with the settlement," Medeiros said. "It's incredible. What the community is getting has never been done, I don't believe, before." [1]

The Advertiser article went on to say that a bill in the Hawaii State Legislature, if passed, would have reversed Judge Ibarra's ruling and allowed the Hōkūli‘a project to finish. The pending legislation speeded the settlement process:

The settlement was finalized yesterday as state lawmakers advanced a bill to declare Hokuli'a and other projects like it to be a legal use of agricultural lands. People involved in the settlement negotiations say the bill, which has already passed in the state House and is pending in the Senate, helped speed the settlement negotiations along. That bill in effect would have reversed Ibarra's 2003 ruling that stopped construction on both the Hokuli'a subdivision and the bypass road. [2]


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