Coco Palms landowner now wants extension

LIHU‘E — The owner of Coco Palms Resort, after allowing a set of key permits to expire last month, has requested an extension, saying that they are in negotiations with a “Hawaiian group” to develop the property.

But the county started the process to revoke the permits Tuesday anyway.

The iconic resort fronting Wailua Beach shut down after damages from Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992, and never reopened. The latest set of permits were granted in 2005, and expired Jan. 25 without action from the landowner.

Phillip Ross, a representative of landowner Coco Palms Ventures, LLC, sent a letter to the county Planning Director Michael Dahilig on Feb. 6, requesting the county extend the permits for a year.

Ross said that the company is in negotiations with “a Hawaiian group with experience in large developments” to put together a joint venture to develop the property. Ross’s letter said that the deal with the new group would “take time,” and he asked for the commission to delay action on the permits.

But Dahilig was unmoved by the late request and recommended the Kaua‘i Planning Commission begin the permit revocation process.

“It’s too late,” he said yesterday at the Kaua‘i Planning Commission meeting.

The commission agreed with Dahilig and unanimously approved an order to show cause, appointed Richard Nakamura as the hearings officer and set a hearing date for March 28.

The permits involved are the property’s Special Management Area Permit, a Project Development Use Permit, a Use Permit, a Variance Permit and a Class IV Zoning Permit.

If it was up to the commission, they would have revoked the permits on Tuesday.

“Why can’t we revoke the permits today?” said Commissioner Jan Kimura, adding that he wanted to save time and money by revoking the permits Tuesday, rather than issuing an order to show cause and going through a hearing.

The county has to go through due process to revoke the permits, Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask said.

Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung said it’s a layered process, which starts with an order to show cause. The department has to prove that the permits expired, he said.

As far as the Hawaiian group interested in the joint venture, Trask said CPV’s argument has little detail. He was unable to contact the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one of the two large Hawaiian organizations that could have the muscle to develop the property.

But Trask said he was able to talk to Kamehameha Schools, the other powerful Hawaiian organization. He said they have been approached several times over the years regarding the Coco Palms development and are apparently not interested in the project.

When CPV attends the hearing in March, they will have a chance to elaborate on their proposal in detail, Trask said.

After the commission set the hearing date, an older man wearing a bright lei and accompanied by his wife, stood up quietly, waived to someone in the audience and walked away.

The man was the iconic Larry Rivera, a Hawaiian songwriter, recording artist and entertainer who had built much of his earlier career performing nightly at Coco Palms. Today, he is still an active musician. Rivera’s family followed his footsteps, and even shared some of his glory by performing at Coco Palms alongside him.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@


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