Prince plan stirs pot

Chris D’Angelo

The Garden Island

LIHUE — Hawaii landowner and developer Jeff Stone’s plans for an exclusive, member-only resort community around the Prince Golf Course drew quick response from Kauai’s North Shore community of Princeville.

Rory Enright, general manager of the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association, said that while he approves of the low-density aspect of the plan, a locked-in, private enclave likely won’t garner much support.

“What he’s talking about is magnitudes more in-your-face private than the traditional Princeville,” he said. “I think it will raise some emotions.”

Enright said that with so many unanswered questions, people are struggling to understand what it will mean for Kauai’s North Shore. He voiced frustration that Stone, founder of The Resort Group, never took the time to sit down and share his plans and vision with the community.

“They do it on the Mainland,” he said of developing private communities around golf courses. “I just question whether they’re going to be able to do it here.”

The private 8,000-acre, 350-unit residential community, called Princeville at Hanalei, will be developed over the next decade by The Resort Group and its new business partner, Reignwood International, an investment firm owned by billionaire Thai-Chinese businessman Chanchai Ruayrungruang.

Stone said the partnership plans to invest a minimum of $500 million.

The community will be managed by Discovery Land Company, which operates 17 private projects around the country, including Montana’s exclusive Yellowstone Club ski resort. It will feature private polo and beach clubs, a lodge, nature trails, restaurants, airport, spa and, of course, the Prince Golf Course, which is slated to close Dec. 31 and undergo $50 million in renovations.

John Young, president of the Rotary Club of Hanalei and assistant general manager of The Cliffs at Princeville, said he and others have expected Stone was planning something like this all along, but Thursday’s article in The Garden Island outlining details still came as a shock.

Despite the low number of residential units planned, which he likes, Young said people will surely be opposed to the idea of “selling out paradise” to the ultra-elite. 

“Clearly, he’s going after a similar or more grand setup than Kukuiula,” a private resort development on Kauai’s southside, he said. 

Young said it appears Stone is targeting the Asian market. And if that is the case, he questions whether Kauai has the infrastructure — restaurants, signage, etc. — needed for support. He also voiced concerns about how the development would impact traffic.

Where Stone might get some support, Young said, is if the project allows the Princeville Airport to reopen. 

In an emailed statement Friday, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said his administration is learning more about the project.

“On the plus side, the project will generate additional real property revenue for the county,” he said. “We appreciate the owners’ statements regarding sensitivity to the historical and cultural aspects of the area, and look forward to more dialogue that will include the greater community.”

Carvalho added the owners have already demonstrated a commitment to community involvement by making a donation of $75,000 to the North Shore shuttle service, which will go a long way toward making that project sustainable. 

“We hope that this type of partnership will continue into the future,” he said. 

In an interview Thursday, Stone said the Prince is the best course in Hawaii, but that it cannot sustain itself without a resort community around it. And for the last 10 years, it has been losing $3 million annually, he said. 

Princeville Ladies Golf Club member Joan Dickerson is among those who view the Prince course as something truly magnificent. In fact, in 1991, after reading about the course in Golf Digest, she decided she had to play it. And ultimately, she and her husband moved to Kauai and bought a home nearby. 

“This is such a precious landscape,” she said, speaking by phone from the course’s 15th hole. “To take it away from the public is … I want to petition the governor to do an eminent domain.”

Dickerson said Thursday’s news was surprising and expected all at the same time, and gets to the heart of the question: “How much do we want to sit by and watch a select few take away our resources?”

“It’s a heavy, philosophical, moral question,” she said.

Tom Bartlett, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Makai Properties, said he has no opposition to the planned resort and feels the plan, as he understands it, appears tasteful.

“I think the development is great because I understand how hard it is to support that golf course with the density there right now, or lack of density,” he said.

Several others voiced similar frustrations about roads they feel Stone is responsible for repairing.

On The Garden Island’s website and Facebook page, dozens of people took to the comments section — the large majority voicing disapproval of the plan. Some called it disgusting, others horrible and sad.

In addition to creating hundreds of jobs, Stone said his plan calls for only one-tenth the density the community master plan for Princeville Resort was initially approved for. The goal moving forward will be to find 350 people to become part of a sustainable community and care for a special area of Kauai’s North Shore.

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Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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