WAILUA — The redevelopment firm seeking to rebuild Coco Palms has a bit more time to get their ducks in a row, even though they’re going to be past deadline for demolition.
That deadline is April 13, about seven weeks away. Demolition is expected to take between four and six months.
And they haven’t even started.
Tuesday, the Kauai County planning commission gave the firm until April 26 to “show physical progress on the site” and a status hearing is set for that date.
At that point the commission will decide whether it wants to set a hearing to discuss the modification or revocation of the firm’s permits.
“If there appears to be physical progress on the site in the interim between now and the hearing, let’s have that discussion on how we can accommodate now that we see things are moving,” said Mike Dahilig, county planning director, “but at this juncture, we aren’t seeing anything.”
Chad Waters and Tyler Greene, managing partners of the Honolulu-based redevelopment firm Coco Palms Hui LLC, said they were pleased with the decision.
“We share the same sense of urgency that the county and community does to complete the project,” said Greene. “We remain dedicated and committed to working as quickly as possible to get this done.”
Dahilig originally introduced a petition to modify or revoke the firm’s permits to reconstruct the dormant Coco Palms resort in Wailua, destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, because the permit obligations haven’t been met.
“We want this project to proceed, but it would not be responsible for us to give these conditions a pass and not raise the enforcement issue before the commission,” Dahilig said.
In October, Waters said the group had received the 25 necessary permits for the demolition and construction of the planned 350-room resort.
Conditions approved by the commission at that time gave the firm until April 13 to complete demolition.
According to John Pang, a real estate development attorney that’s working with the firm, the reason for the delay has to do with the loan for the $135 million project.
“The loan process is taking longer than anticipated, but this is not abnormal,” said Pang. “At this point, the project is poised to go forward and it would unfortunate for this body to take action that would cause the lender to be concerned.”
Pang said the New York-based lender is moving toward the closing phase in the loan. However, a major player in that process was just unexpectedly admitted to the hospital. He said they’re waiting on that person’s health to close on the loan.
“We’re going to be pushing to close in March,” Pang said. “But it’s delicate.”
He said the type of loan the firm is going after has changed to an acquisition loan, which makes the process go faster, but will require them to go back for a construction loan.
That means going through the whole process again, but Pang was optimistic it would move smoothly.
“We’re looking at the same lender for the construction loan,” Pang said. “Yes, we’re going to need to close on another loan, but the lender is committed.”
Pang said Coco Palms Hui LLC would prefer to have an agreement to modify petitions from the planning commission.
“That would send a great message to the lender because nothing else prevents us from moving forward,” Pang said.
He said the firm has already contracted Pacific Concrete Cutting and Coring in Lihue for the demolition work and the plan is to start the process as soon as the loan is closed.
Kauai resident Bill Fernandez told the commission he would like to see the project move forward.
“It’s a travesty to believe you may pull the rug out from under this and prevent this facility from coming back to life,” Fernandez said.
But not everyone is behind the effort to resurrect the ransacked resort.
Mehana Vaughan, also a Kauai resident, said she thinks the commission has given the firm plenty of time to meet the requirements.
“This commission has spent enough time and this is a mockery of the process for a developer to not meet the conditions,” Vaughan said.
She mentioned the site could be used for other things, like an educational or an outreach center. She said she doesn’t think the current plans are going to work well for the community.
Coco Palms Hui LLC, however, is resolute.
“Consider allowing us to close on the loan and complete demolition in a timely manner,” Pang said. “This is an opportunity for an international historic icon to be regenerated and to alleviate the current situation at the site.”