Commission approves Coco Palms renovation

LIHU’E — The county Planning Commission yesterday approved permits that allow

for conversion of the Coco Palms hotel in Wailua to a 232-unit timeshare


The developer plans to tear down the landmark 396-room hotel and

convert the 30-acre property into timeshare units and 20 hotel rooms.


vintage hotel has been closed since Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992.

Work on the

project is not expected to begin for at least 18 months. Prior to beginning

construction, plans to preserve burials, historic resources and artifacts must

be approved and a county demolition permit secured.

Former Hawai’i Sen.

Billy Fernandes, a longtime resident of Wailua, praised the action of the


“It is high time we do something,” he said before the meeting

at the Lihu’e Civic Center. “We need to reopen. Keep the name Coco Palms going.

It is well known all over the world, so you don’t want to lose


Developers James R. Reed and Lincoln Consulting Group Limited secured

Special Management Area use permits, project development permits and other


The Planning Commission approved the permits based on favorable

recommendations from the county Planning Department.

Conditions placed on

the permits include preserving hundreds of coconut trees, resolving issues with

the state Department of Transportation over a potential Kapa’a bypass road by

the hotel, and revising floor plans for timeshare units.

The developers

also have agreed to step up efforts to preserve Hawaiian burials, historical

sites and artifacts at the hotel site.

Representing the developers, Kaua’i

architect Avery Youn proposed:

* Historical research and data collection on

fish ponds, auwai (ditches) and springs.

* An archeological inventory to

identify historical sites, burials and artifacts.

* A monitoring plan

dealing with archeological remains, sites where remains could be found, the

range of the field work and designation of authority to halt work when remains

or artifacts are found.

* A data recovery plan.

* A burial treatment


* A preservation plan.

These plans need approval by the state

Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Kaua’i-Ni’ihau Burial Council and

the Kaua’i County Historic Preservation Review Commission, Youn said.


agreed with Commissioner Abby Santos that the conditions could alter the

placement of some new buildings at the hotel site.

“If we find a

significant group of burials, we may have to remove buildings rather than

re-inter (the remains),” he said.

The extra efforts by the developers to

ensure proper treatment of the burial drew support from Cheryl Lovell-Obtake,

a representative of the Kaua’i-Ni’ihau Burial Council.

Sovereignty advocate

Kane Pa said he didn’t go along with the Burial Council’s endorsements of

conditions placed on the developer.

He said the county Planning Commission

has no authority to decide how the burials are to be treated because the people

who are buried there are kanaka maoli, the indigenous people of Hawai’i, and

were not American citizens, he said. As a result, they are not subject to the

laws of the state.

“I want to let you people know I have served you notice

of what is happening here,” Pa said. “You can do whatever you want to do after


Some of the key recommendations from the staff included:

Work with the Kaua’i and Ni’ihau Island Burial Council on known and inadvertent

Native Hawaiian burials at the hotel site.

* Preserve archaeological

resources, including the fishponds, springs and ‘auwai (ditches), if the State

Historic Preservation Division of the state Department of Land and Natural

Resources finds the features historically significant.

* Move proposed

timeshare buildings 50 feet back from the property line along Kuhio Highway,

unless the county Planning Department finds the locations closer to the

highway are needed to avoid impacting an archaeological or historical


* Revise floor plans for the timeshare units to remove the

potential for “lockout units” (one-bedroom suites attached to each timeshare

apartment but separated by walls and separate entry doors).

* Pay the

county $232,000 in environmental assessment fees.

* Pay another amount in

lieu of park dedication.

* Provide 612 off-street parking stalls for the

public, resort and Seashell Restaurant users.


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