Categorized | Opinions

Opinion: Oppose Bills 136 & 137 on Palamanui

An open letter to the Hawaii County Council

Aloha e Chairman Yoshimoto and members of the Hawaii County Council,

Bill 136 violates both the letter and the spirit of the Kona Community Development Plan (KCDP) ordinance.

Bill 136 would remove 29 acres from Palamanui’s special Project District zoning district and into the MCX, commercial/industrial, zoning district.

This proposed rezoning is located outside of the University Village regional TOD and proposes to replace the Greenbelt surrounding the University Village with mixed commercial/industrial land uses.

Bill 136 violates Policy LU-2.8.2.b, “Development Outside Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs), but within the Kona Urban Area” which states “Development outside the TODs, but within the Kona UA, may occur as follows:

Conventional Rezoning. Rezoning to other than TND [Project District special zoning], is subject to the following guidelines:

  1. Consistency with LUPAG. Refer to Policy LU-1.3.
  2. Infill. Rezonings that promote infill are encouraged. The concept of infill is to connect two or more pre-existing developments. Infill is usually associated with small scale developments of 20 acres or less that have been leapfrogged by the surrounding or adjacent developments. Infill rezonings should be conditioned to ensure connectivity to the surrounding developments and, where applicable, to provide mixed-use opportunities to make the area more walkable.
  3. Greenfields” Rezoning. Rezoning anywhere within the Kona UA, whether within or outside a TOD area designated on Figure 4-7 Official Kona Land Use Map, that is not a TOD, TND [Traditional Neighborhood Development], or infill shall require an amendment to the Kona CDP that triggers HRS Chapter 343 Environmental Review Process.

Bill 136 is a conventional rezoning which complies with the General Plan’s Land Use Pattern Allocation Guide.

However, this rezoning does not constitute infill and is in fact being proposed in an area that is now completely open.

In addition, because Bill 136 is not a TOD, TND, or infill, it requires an amendment to the KCDP and triggers an environmental review process.

Bill 136 proposes to reduce the “greenbelt” that the existing zoning currently protects. The KCDP defines “greenbelt” as “an undeveloped area surrounding the Secondary Area. The Greenbelt is a strategic planning tool to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.

The purpose of the Greenbelt is to prevent urban sprawl of the TODs/TNDs, prevent neighboring towns from merging into one another, and to preserve the setting and the character of the TODs/TNDs. The Greenbelt may also serve multi-purpose uses, such as for drainage (e.g., flow ways or retention basins), sensitive resource preserves or wildfire protection buffers.”

Bill 136 reduces the greenbelt that existing zoning has created between the University Village and development centered on the Keahole International Airport

The KCDP states that the goal of the “University Village (Regional Center) is “to use the university as a catalyst for complementary commercial opportunities surrounding the campus and to attract students, faculty, and staff to live on or near campus. The university would hopefully be a center for cultural and performing arts, life-long learning, innovation, and workforce development that would benefit the broader community.”

The uses intended for the new MCX zoning district is not consistent with the vision and purposes of the University Village and represents the very unplanned growth that the KCDP was created to stop.

For these reasons and more, regardless of intention, Bill 136 violates the KCDP ordinance and approval of this bill is legally invalid.

Therefore, I hope that this council will defeat Bill 136 and advise Palamanui to make another application to the Planning Department which complies with the KCDP ordinance.

Charles Flaherty
Captain Cook


An open letter to the Hawaii County Council

Aloha e Chairman Yoshimoto and members of the Hawai’i County Council,

I oppose Bill 137 because it has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.

In 2003, Palamanui was able to obtain redistricting from the state Land Use Commission by promising a “University Village Center” within the project that would include six acres of university space (see ).

In 2006, Palamanui removed the promised six-acre university space from its project, but obtained rezoning from the county by promising to provide $5,000,000 toward a 20,000 square-foot university building on the state land parcel to the south of Palamanui with access to the project’s water/sewer/electric infrastructure (see and ). It is important to note that Palamanui obtained this rezoning only one month before the county council placed a moratorium on new rezonings in Kona until the KCDP was completed and adopted..

Then, Palamanui submitted Bill 137 less than one month before the first meeting of the KCDP Action Committee this past June 4th. Personally, I do see how these “just in time to avoid” publicly-supported government regulation scenarios were coincidental.

Regardless, Bill 137 allows Palamanui to issue a construction bond instead of actually providing funds to construct the building prior to commercial, industrial, and/or residential occupancy on the project site. This is the same regressive strategy used by 1250 Oceanside Partners ten years ago from 1993 through 1999. This strategy, not litigation, is the first and foremost reason the Mamalahoa Highway has not been completed.

There is no clear language in Bill 137 that requires Palamanui to complete University Drive and provide infrastructure (water/power/wastewater treatment) to the 20,000 square foot building prior to occupancy within the Palamanui project. The university building will require infrastructure (water, power, wastewater, road, parking, etc), but Bill 137 only requires access to Palamanui’s infrastructure.

Therefore, Palamanui could build University Drive only to provide infrastructure to the mixed commercial/industrial area being proposed by Bill 136 and not beyond, while still allowing occupancy of the MCX area by only providing a bond for infrastructure to complete University Drive and associated infrastructure to the university building.

Palamanui and its supporters are using the argument of job creation and the promise of a site for a West Hawai’i Community College campus as reasons to grant the developer the concessions contained within Bill 137. However, Bill 137 does not contain language which provides reasonable assurance that either of these goals will be accomplished in the near future. Instead, it creates a situation where any disagreement between the university and/or Planning Director could be used as a reason for non-compliance.

Therefore, I strongly urge this council to defeat Bill 137 and advise Palamanui to submit a TND master floating zone plan to the KCDP Action Committee that encompasses the vision, guiding principles, goals, objectives, policies, and actions of the KCDP.

Charles Flaherty
Captain Cook

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