Council hears arguments over Princeville zoning

Princeville Corporation and some property owners at the resort are butting heads over a Kaua’i County Council bill proposing to keep 650 acres at the north shore resort in open space permanently.

At a public hearing sponsored by the Kaua’i County Planning Commission at the Lihu’e Civic Center Tuesday, Kaua’i attorney Walton Hong, representing Princeville, said approval of the bill would thwart development plans for the property.

Approval of the bill would involve “taking” of property by government without compensation to the developer, Hong said.

If the county passes the bill, the legislation should apply to all owners of open-zoned lands on the island, not just Princeville, Hong said.

On the other side, some property owners contend they bought their homes because representatives for Eagle County Development Corporation and Consolidated Oil & Gas, Inc., the past owner of the resort, and Princeville Corp., the current owner, told them the property would not be developed.

The property includes a 320-acre golf course and 330 acres of gulleys, flood zones and valleys.

“Countless people have invested on the assumption the golf course and the green belt would remain permanently in open space,” said Susan Wilson, a Princeville property owner. “That was what was presented to them before they bought their properties.”

The commission took testimony and scheduled another hearing on Oct. 15 to solicit more public comments.

Dee Crowell, who heads the Kaua’i County Planning Department, said the case is so complex that it may be “one of those supreme court kind of cases.”

The bill seeks to clarify that the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance “open” district designation within the first phase of Princeville, in which the 650 acres are found, was not intended to “carry any residential density.”

The property was originally designated as “open space, green belt, park, or golf course” in several master development plans submitted by Eagle in its land use applications to the county, the bill said.

The bill evolved after somebody recently bought one of 40 open-zoned lots and expressed an interest in putting homes on the property, said Keith Nitta, a spokesman with the Kaua’i County Planning Department.

Speaking against the bill, Hong noted:

– The bill, if implemented, would amount to “unlawful” and “unconstitutional taking without compensation.

A decision by the county to classify the land as permanent open space constitutes a “categorical total taking by regulation, and the regulatory governmental agency must pay compensation as if the land were taken by eminent domain.”

– The bill is discriminatory, as it only applies to open-zoned lands at Princeville.

– The bill, if enacted, should apply to all open-zoned lands on Kaua’i, not just those on the Princeville property.

– The county failed to impose the requirement for permanent open space in adopting the master plan for the first phase of Princeville, the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance in 1972 and development plan for the north shore.

– The bill actually only addresses two lots, but “broadbrushes” to include all of the other lands.

Speaking in opposition to the bill via email, Harry A. Trueblood, Jr., a former chief operating officer of Eagle, said the legislation is an attempt to “confiscate the property rights of owners, including Princeville Corp.” by retroactively changing those rights based on some mythical interpretation of Eagle County Development Corporation’s original intent as to the building of structures within certain so-called “open” space lots” within the first phase of the Princeville resort.

Trueblood said he spent about twenty years overseeing the development of Princeville as chief operating officer of Eagle and Princeville Corp. before retiring. He is now a resident of Denver. Colo.

From her point of view, the issue involves only 460 acres Eagle and Princeville previously represented they would keep as open space permanently, Wilson said.

Those promises were made in documents that accompanied one of the master plans for the project and in sales brochures, she said.

“In 1989, when Princeville submitted a revised master plan, the plan showed the valley and the open space, and states one of the purposes of the master plan was to leave the gulches and valleys for recreation and open space,” Wilson said.

Wilson said documents Princeville presented in 1989 is a “perpetuation of what was presented to the county and the public since 1969,” when Eagle owned the property, Wilson said.

Wilson cited as without credibility claims by Hong that passage of the bill would result in the “taking” of land without compensation. “You cannot take what you never had,” Wilson said.

Development within the 460 acres would obstruct the view of people who live near the golf course and open space area, thereby reducing property values, Wilson contended.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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