Council to decide on Princeville land issue

The Kaua’i County Planning Commission will let the Kaua’i County Council decide what to do with a council bill aimed at keeping between 450 and 480 acres at the Princeville resort as permanent green space.

On Tuesday, the commission received a county planning department report that said some development was allowed for open space land under the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance.

That means allowing only one home on land with densities that were not used, giving supporters of the bill hope that development will be limited, if any occurs at all.

But commission sent the report to the council without incorporating any of the department recommendations.

Some commissioners and planning department staffers had raised concerns about issues of government “taking” of property and public testimony for and against the bill.

Commissioner Mike Cockett said the “bill leaves me predisposed to do nothing” until something “concrete comes up.”

Cockett also said the council is an elected body and that it “should have the hot potato put in its bailiwick.”

The council proposed the bill and sent it to commission for review. Council chair Ron Kouchi introduced the measure to clarify the intent of a variance approval in 1969 for a master plan for the first phase of the Princeville Resort.

The approval called for permanent open space use for about 450 acres, said north shore resident and Realtor Susan Wilson.

The issue has become controversial because of complaints by at least 40 Princeville homebuyers and more hat they bought lots and homes because the original resort owner, Eagle County Development Corporation and Consolidated Oil & Gas Inc., and the current owner, Princeville Development Corp., made representations to keep the land around their properties in open space.

Princeville Corp. representatives, meanwhile, have complained that denying the company full use of the land would result in the taking of property by government without compensation, opening the doors for lawsuits.

Commission planning director Dee Crowell said the issue could involve costly litigation between Princeville Corp. and the homeowners and that the matter may be ultimately decided by the Hawai’i Supreme Court.

A supporter of the council bill, Walter Lewis said he and at least 40 other property owners at Princeville don’t want to see any development on the land.

Yesterday, Lewis presented written testimony saying:

– No development should occur on 368 acres of the 628 acres identified in the county report.

– Efforts should be made to determine what, if any, development plans are in store for the remaining 260 acres, a good portion of which he said he believed was zoned for residential and resort use.

– More discussion has to be made on the issue of “taking” by government.

Wilson, meanwhile, said the Kaua’i County Board of supervisors, in 1969, approved the master plan for 1,000 acres of the resort with a condition that called for setting aside at least 450 acres as a green belt, implying no development would occur on them.

In taking such action, the official body of the county at the time, now the council, “considered the deep valleys and the golf course as open space,” Wilson said.

She also said the first development phase was “basically finished” and the green belt provision was “grandfathered in” before the county passed the comprehensive zoning ordinance in 1972.

Wilson commended the commission decision not to approve the planning department recommendations. Among them:

– Allowing a home on lands that “have not utilized their densities.”

– Requiring a legal opinion on the issues of physical taking and regulatory taking, “investment-backed investments” and “reasonable use.”

Keith Nitta, senior planner with the planning department, said the bill would apply to 39 lots within 479 affected acres that included the golf course and open zone lands.

As far as he knew, only five homes, if desired, could be built on the golf course, Nitta said.

Nitta also said he number of homes that could be built on the other 350 acres classified as vacant and open was not known because of the “mixed zoning.

Considering public testimonies and intent of the bill, “it is concluded that a prudent action may be the allowance of some reasonable use of these affected properties,” Nitta said in the department report.

In other action, the commission:

– Accepted a request by the owners of Kauai Lagoons Resort Company Ltd. to withdraw its permits for a proposed coastline hotel by the Lihu’e Airport.

The commission approved the developer’s request to cancel its Special Management Area Use Permit, a special, a project development use permit and a Class IV Zoning Permit.

Kauai Lagoons had obtained the permits for its “Running Waters” hotel outside Kalapaki Bay in the past.

But because Kauai Lagoons had gotten approval from the council and the commission this year to revise its master plan for is proposed 452-acre project, the resort owner agreed to have the permits canceled.

As part of that proposal, the developer has proposed moving the hotel farther away from the airport, to get away from the noise from flights, even though modern planes are quieter.

– Made official an earlier decision it had reached to deny request for permits by EWM Kauai LLC to revegetate 29 coastal acres north of Hanama’ulu Bay.

Earlier, some commission members cited the need not to chop down existing ironwood trees that were originally planted to protect sugar cane fields.

They also voiced the fear the land clearing could lead to erosion and damage by ocean air. Others said the project would result in barring public access to beaches.

The proposal was part of a larger residential and commercial project EWM had proposed north of the bay.

EWM, however, withdrew its proposal this year, partly due to public concerns about the loss of public access and the timeliness of the project.

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