LIHUE — After nearly two years of work and waiting, plans to rebuild and reconstruct the Coco Palms Resort in Wailua cleared one of the final hurdles Tuesday needed to set the $135 million project in motion.
The County of Kauai Planning Commission, by a 6-0 vote, approved project development plans and related permits for officials from Honolulu-based development firm Coco Palms Hui, LLC to refurbish, demolish and rebuild the historic 350-room resort, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Iniki buffeted the island in 1992.
“We’re just very thankful and appreciative of the County of Kauai, the Planning Department and the planning director for getting us this far,” Coco Palms Hui, LLC Principal Chad Waters said after the meeting. “It’s just another step in the journey.”
Conditions approved by the commission require Coco Palms developers to apply for necessary demolition permits within the next four months and complete demolition work within six months once permits are issued. Construction permits, meanwhile, must be submitted within the next year.
If all goes as planned, work on the Coco Palms Resort site could begin within the next several months, Waters said.
“We think the deadlines are very reasonable,” he said. “We don’t expect any issues and we look forward to get going as soon as we possibly can.”
The entire resort, he said, should be open by spring 2017.
Coco Palms Hui, LLC Principal Tyler Greene said plans are also in place to construct 30 workforce housing units on a property recently purchased on Haleilio Road less than a block away from the hotel.
“I believe those will fill up very quickly with the employees, so all of those folks not only can enjoy that bus stop (nearby) in going in and out of town but also can walk across the street about 150 yards to work,” Greene said. “That will eliminate a lot of parking demands.”
About 40 public parking spaces for beachgoers — 20 on the north side of the hotel near Haleilio Road and 20 on the south side near Kuamoo Road — must be set aside. Developers must also design, construct and maintain indefinitely a comfort station nearby.
Moving forward, however, will come with additional costs, according to county planning documents.
Coco Palms developers must contribute $50,000 to “assist the Planning Department’s historic preservation mission through its efforts to perpetuate the cultural and historic significance of the Wailua/Waipouli region … including the creation of educational programs and signage,” according to a county Planning Commission memo issued Tuesday to developers.
Developers must also contribute another $50,000 to the County of Kauai to “assist the county with its current placemaking efforts, including moku (district) and ahupuaa signage of the Wailua area.”
The County of Kauai Transportation Agency, which administers The Kauai Bus services, will receive another $10,000 from developers to assist with the construction of a new bus stop along Kuhio Highway in the Wailua area.
“I am concerned that we’ll need another bus stop, if there’s increased ridership and demand due to the development,” Planning Commission Chair Angela Anderson said before casting her vote.
Developers must also pay for all road improvements on Apana Road, including sidewalks, turn lanes and road widening projects, leading to Haleilio Road.
Coco Palms Hui, LLC attorney Michael Belles said hotel developers are working with community organizations, along with county and state agencies, to resolve some of the region’s traffic and transportation issues.
Hotel developers, he added, have agreed to fully fund and create two separate shuttle services from the hotel to Lihue Airport and Wailua destinations; create a bike-share program for nearby commutes; and bear some of the costs for future traffic and pedestrian impacts. Imposing additional traffic-related costs and restrictions, Belles opined, is not the answer.
“We see the problem as being a regional issue and not being one specifically tied to or directly caused by the Coco Palms Resort,” he said.
Commissioner Hartwell Blake was absent and did not vote on the project.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. praised the commission’s decision.
“We are pleased that the commission and our agencies did their due diligence and that we now have a solid proposal,” he wrote in an email. “This is an important step in seeing Coco Palms redeveloped, and I hope that we will soon see the property transformed after decades of waiting.”