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-Leeward Planning Commission Approves Charles Schwab's Palamanui Request to Put off Promised Commitments.

-Leeward Side Planning Commission Approves Palamanui Global Holding's Request to Avoid Road and Park Commitments Promised the Community When Development Was Approved. The proposed Palamanui developement is located on a 725 acre site located mauka of the Kona airport. The plan called for a mixed development with stores, a 120 room hotel, and residential areas, a 20 acre park, and a Community College building. Among the changes requested and approved today by the the Planning Commission was a deferral of the mauka-makai connector road and deferral of park obligations. Public testifers hoped the Commission would at least require that the Developer proceed as promised with the park area (given the lack of parks in the area), but the Planning Commission agreed that need not be built until some point down the road.

As previously reported in West Hawaii Today,
--Palamanui’s representative Roger Harris, explained (WHT 6/21): “From our point of view, it is a deferral, not an elimination.” Mayor Kenoi supported this argument (WHT 6/25): “ There is no forgiving of commitments. … There’s just timelines.”

Promising the community what is needed, getting approval, and then when the next economic downturn arrives, we see the same pattern: Developer requests to reduce or delay the key conditions of the development; and the County supports the request stressing that for the most part the request is only about timing.

“No accountability”, that is what this story is all about.

In the late 1980s Richard Smart, heir to Parker Ranch, made similar commitments to the Waimea community in order to secure a rezoning of some 300 plus acres of prime ag land. Parker Ranch agreed to build a road traversing the Waimea center parcel to be rezoned BEFORE any residential or commercial permits would be issued. Among the other commitments made were numerous parks along with AN approximately 12 acre expansion of the Waimea public school property, multi-unit rental housing, an equestrian path and sidewalks along Mamalahoa to connect the school and the to be constructed road. Then in 1996, the requests for deferrals and reductions began. For the most part the argument was we are standing by our commitments, we are just asking for a deferral “to achieve a more efficient phasing of infrastructure improvements in relation to increments of development.” --quoting from April 9, 1996 letter to Planning Director from Parker Ranch. (Note: The "Parker Ranch" Road was originally designed as an arterial road, but was reduced to being planned as a connector road.)

At that time, an astute engineer named Robert Walden warned the County: "DO NOT GO BACKWARDS ON ANY STEP ALREADY APPROVED" -- in particular with regard to the "mini-bypass road" and the proposed reduction and delay for park space (quoting from letter dated July 25, 1996 addressed to County Planning Commission).

So here we are in 2009, and still no road (though thanks to a lawsuit, two of the three phases of the road are finally being constructed) . And still no regional park or equestrian path, though finally the park may now make it to the drawing board. And where’s the 12 acre of expansion of the Waimea public school? Where’s the sidewalk along Mamalahoa? Where’s is multi-unit housing?

Bottom line is: if no firm deadline for rezoning conditions, don’t count on them happening in your lifetime, if ever.

Now we as a County could just say no to Palamanui: Let's practice: " Like when the economy is better Mr, Schwab come on back and build your proposed development including the road and the park. And in the meantime you may have noticed we have plenty of empty hotel rooms and plenty of homes for sale."

IN conclusion: If you are concerned about this repeated pattern of "no need to be accountable to the community", be willing to testify when the Planning Commission's recommendation of Palamanui's requested reductions and deferrals is heard by the County Council.