Judge orders moratorium until hearing

State Judge Kathleen Watanabe has rescheduled a hearing for a preliminary injunction until June 8 in a case in which environmentalists seek the rescinding of county permits for two massive resorts in Waipouli on the Eastside.

The critics of the projects are also asking the judge to require the developers to re-apply for the permits.

The plaintiffs — 1,000 Friends of Kauai and Puanani Rogers — said the county Planning Commission should have required environmental assessments for the 20-acre Coconut Beach Resort and the 12-acre Coconut Plantation Village before approving permits for them in January.

“Frankly we can’t believe the court would not want an environmental assessment,” said Kaua‘i attorney Daniel Hempy, representing 1,000 Friends.

A state law requires the study to be done because the developers are prepared to fund the expansion of the Wailua sewage treatment plant, which would accommodate both resorts.

On May 14, Watanabe approved a moratorium on building, grading or work at the resort sites until the June 8 hearing is held.

The plaintiffs and defendants both declared victories in the ruling.

“We told judge Watanabe that if she was going to grant the motion to continue the hearing, the least she could do is order a moratorium,” Hempy said Wednesday.

A representative for Communications Pacific, a public relations firm in Honolulu, Pua‘alaokalani Aiu, said the developers asked for the moratorium.

Because Bert Kobayashi, the lead attorney for the defense, had a prior commitment and couldn’t attend a May 16 hearing, the developers asked for the court proceeding to be scheduled on June 8, Aiu said.

“We asked for the moratorium so that 1,000 Friends could be given assurance there would be no building,” Aiu said Wednesday.

In an e-mail she sent, Aiu states: “Watanabe’s order on May 14, 2007, was not based on any ruling of the court as to the validity of the projects or the permits that were issued in January.”

Aiu further states: “The moratorium was proposed by the developers in their motion to continue the mid-May hearing date until early June. The court incorporated the developer’s proposal as part of granting the developer’s motion to delay the hearing until June 8.

“In order to ensure that construction didn’t start prior to the hearing, which was a concern of 1,000 Friends, the developers proposed the language of the stay,” Aiu said.

Hempy said it was his recollection the plaintiffs asked for the moratorium. “I am saying we asked for it,” he said. “I am saying they ceded it.”

Hempy, who has been assisted by Greg Meyers, an attorney, said a hearing was initially scheduled in January but that it has been rescheduled numerous times since then.

Representing Rogers is the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which joined the lawsuit against the developers.

A staffer for Watanabe said the developers offered to abide by a moratorium first, as long as the hearing could be rescheduled until June 8.

In e-mail, the plaintiffs said the Kawaihau District, in which the two resorts would be built, already faces significant infrastructure restraints.

The plaintiffs also said that any additional resort development along the heavily used Kapa‘a and Wailua corridor would result in detrimental impacts to the public.

The developers, however, have promised to pay $5.4 million to extend Pouli Road in Waipouli to Wailua Houselots to alleviate traffic congestion on Kuhio Highway.

But the developers have said that amount could be much more if they are required to acquire land for the extension.

Up to 535 multi-family units, 12 hotel rooms and nearly 1,000 parking stalls could be built if both resort projects are approved.

Slightly more than 340 multi-family units are planned for the Coconut Beach Development project.

Plans for the Coconut Plantation Village include the development of 192 condominium units, six hotel rooms, a cultural-preserve area, and a minimum of 399 parking stalls.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.


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