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County Council update

Kohala Kai Development Grant of Easement (Council Resolution 140 Draft 3 approved March 7):

The Kohala Kai property is located on the North Kohala Coast just north of Kawaihae. For generations this area has been used for recreation and cultural activities, as well as for walking the historic Ala Loa Trial, which parallels the shoreline.

The Kohala Kai residential subdivision currently has seven lots approved and approval of five more lots is expected. But what may sound like a simple requirement to provide a public access easement became a multi-faceted contentious vote. Let me explain:

The sticking points to the proposed mauka-makai and lateral pedestrian easements were numerous and complicated by the Planning Department’s departure from procedures in place to involve the community in a timely fashion, and by the Planning Director’s approval of a trail location other that requested by the National Park Service and by the North Kohala Community Development Plan Action Committee’s Public Access Subcommittee. (Both had requested the public access trail be aligned with the Ala Loa Trail). So the question was, given that the Planning Department and the mayor had already approved the initial subdivision, what could the Council do in the context of accepting the proposed pedestrian access Grant of Easement?

At the February Council committee meeting an understanding appeared to have been reached: the County would accept the developer designated shoreline edge trail: provided the trail was located within a 20-foot wide easement corridor and the Ala Loa Trail be acknowledged by the developer as a state historic site on its subdivision plan and be protected by a prohibition against any construction upon or blockage of this historic trail. By March 5, the developer’s representatives and I finally agreed upon certain language to implement these protections for the Ala Loa Trail corridor.

But then on March 6, the night before the Council meeting, the developer’s representatives advised they no longer intended to support our agreement since they were negotiating with the National Parks Service to give a conservation easement on this property to include the Ala Loa Trail corridor. They explained the terms we had agreed upon would instead be part of the proposed National Parks Service negotiations.

Yet I was not persuaded to forego requiring our agreed terms for the County Easement Grant. I figured the County would not be a party to the National Parks Service easement agreement, and that agreement was only in the initial stages of negotiation. For me, it was important to at minimum have in place a prohibition against structures or other barriers being placed on or across the Ala Loa, and not be dependent upon the success or terms of the National Parks Service negotiations. In particular I feared that otherwise a person purchasing one of the existing or future Kohala Kai lots might construct a home or a wall or a fence across the historic Ala Loa Trail alignment. That possibility even if slight was important to prevent.

I am happy to report that after considerable debate at the March 7 Council meeting, the developers’ representatives switched their position and agreed to place a deed restriction in the conveyance of all subdivision lots to prevent any blockage of the trail and also agreed to identify the historic Ala Loa Trail corridor on the Kohlala Kai subdivision plan. In light of these concessions, the Council voted to approve the requested Grant of Easement. In good faith, I am now awaiting a copy of the developer’s deed restriction with the agreed upon language and the corresponding proposed subdivision plan revision.

County Auditor Hired:

Also, on March 7, the Council voted to approve Bonnie Nims as the County auditor. She is exceptionally qualified and we are honored she accepted the County of Hawaii auditor position.

Hawi Banyan Tree property Resolution 332:

On March 18, a Resolution Supporting County purchase of the Hawi-center “Banyan Tree property” using the County’s 2 percent Public Access Open Space Funds was to be considered. A decision whether to purchase this parcel must be made right away in order to secure agreement of the sellers – whose good intent is making this purchase possible. I will discuss the outcome of these efforts in my April legislative update.

Future Council matters of interest:

March 31 Energy Sustainability Communication 481: I have scheduled a presentation on Green Waste and other organics impacts on Hawaii County’s solid waste handling. This discussion is important given that the mayor’s proposed solid waste proposal plan appears to exclude utilization of green waste. Come testify about your suggestions and your concerns.

Contact the office of Councilmember Margaret Wille for more information.