Senate tries to give Koloa Camp tenants stay of eviction

LIHU‘E — Hawai‘i State Senate passed a resolution Friday urging Grove Farm Company to place an immediate stay of eviction and engage in meaningful formal discussions with the 13 tenants of historic Koloa Camp, who are scheduled to be evicted by the company on March 8 to make way for a 50-unit housing development called Waihohonu.

The purpose and intent of the measure is to urge Grove Farm to allow Koloa Camp tenants to remain on the property past the eviction date and assign the tenants affordable housing units once the company’s proposed development project is complete, the measure states.

“We’re just asking Grove Farm to see if there’ s potential to resolve the situation with the tenants,” said Sen. Ronald Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau.

Koloa Camp residents have suggested Grove Farm move its planned 12-acre project to its undeveloped property on the opposite side of Ala Kinoiki (Koloa bypass road).

“It’s zoned ag,” Kouchi said, “but we can help them in that regard. It seems like an interesting opportunity because the project is less than 15 acres, so they can go through county. If it was more than 15 acres, they would have to go through state.”

The resolution was introduced by Kouchi and Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahuku, Kane‘ohe.

“Senator Hee talked to me about his concerns and asked if I would sponsor the resolution,” Kouchi said.

Kepa Kruse, son of Koloa Camp resident John Kruse, said Hee was instrumental in getting the resolution passed and giving Koloa Camp “a legislative voice.”

Some camp residents, such as 83-year-old Catherine Fernandez who has lived in Koloa Camp for 57 years, have said they’re not moving despite the March 8 eviction order. Others have said they plan to  barricade themselves in their home.

Grove Farm spokeswoman Marissa Sandblom on Friday said in an email that most of the tenants are cooperating and that Grove Farm is working with them toward transitioning elsewhere.  

“For the tenants who have taken the initiative to find housing, we have offered to reimburse them for moving expenses up to $3,000,” Sandblom said. “We offered to rent one of our Lihu‘e rental units to multiple Koloa Camp tenants. We are also working with one tenant to move their existing house to another property they own.”  

Asked what Grove Farm will do if residents refuse to leave, Sandblom said, “We hope that they honor their agreement with us.”

The resolution will now go to the House for approval.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 251, or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

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