Coco Palms still waiting for permits

LIHUE —The start of a planned renaissance of the long-shuttered Coco Palms Resort will take a little bit more time than expected.

The Kauai Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to approve a request from Coco Palms Hui LLC for a time extension to submit demolition permits, a first step in the slowly materializing effort to revitalize the historic hotel.

Coco Palms never reopened after Hurricane Iniki tore it apart in 1992.

The Honolulu-based redevelopment firm plans to rebuild the 350-room Wailua resort made famous by the Elvis Presley film “Blue Hawaii.” The entire resort is expected to open as a Hyatt-branded property in the spring of 2017. It is an estimated $135 million project.

“This is like the last hurrah for Coco Palms,” said Sean Mahoney, the commission’s vice chairman. “A lot of people are rooting for it.”

Architect Ron Agor said all the cultural preservation and traffic mitigation requirements required to begin demolition have been fulfilled. The project is now awaiting approval from the state Historic Preservation Division, he said. Once this approval is obtained, the group will need to pull 20 demolition permits.

Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said SHPD is reviewing the Archaeological Monitoring Plan and End of Fieldwork Letter. Acceptance letters, assuming the documents are acceptable, will go to the county.

The state Health Department will also need to perform rodent control on the property before the group brings in a wrecking ball.

“We’re crossing our fingers that we’re going to get cooperation in getting the demolition permits as soon as we can,” said Agor, adding that he doesn’t foresee any other delays or roadblocks to starting demolition.

Demolition is expected to be a four to six month process, according to Tyler Greene of the redevelopment hui.

“There was an issue with the capacity of the landfill on Kauai, so we’ll have to ship that rubbish off to Oahu,” he said. “The hope is that we will be processing the building permits right after we start the demolition.”

Conditions previously approved by the Planning Commission require Coco Palms developers to complete demolition work within six months once demolition permits are issued. Building permits, meanwhile, must be submitted within the next year.

Requirements put forth by SHPD include a stipulation that the 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 area, according to county documents.

Additionally, the developers must contribute $50,000 to the county for moku and ahupuaa signage and $10,000 to the county Transportation Agency for a new bus stop along Kuhio Highway in Wailua.

The developers must also pay for all road improvements on Apana Road, including sidewalks, turn lanes and road widening projects.

Coco Palms Hui representatives have said they are working with community groups along with county and state agencies to resolve some of the traffic and transportation issues anticipated with the reopening of the resort.

The developers have agreed to fully fund two new shuttle services from the hotel to Lihue Airport and other popular Wailua destinations, create a bike-share program and contribute funding toward future traffic and pedestrian issue resolutions.

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