Despite what judge rules, occupiers say land is theirs

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    The once-famed Kauai landmark Coco Palms Resort in Wailua has laid in ruins since it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. A battle between the men who want to develop the land and a group of Native Hawaiians who claim the land has begun.

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Coco Palms Resort has laid in ruins since is was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Developers Tyler Greene and Chad Waters purchased the land in 2012, with plans to renovate the resort, but for nearly a year, those plans have been complicated by a group of Native Hawaiians who say they are the rightful owners of the property. A civil case on the matter has begun and will continue on Dec. 29.

Bethany Freudenthal

The Garden Island

WAILUA — The battle continues over Coco Palms Resort in Wailua, between developers Chad Waters and Tyler Greene and a group of Native Hawaiians who say the land rightfully belongs to them by royal decree.

A civil case on the matter has begun and will continue on Friday.

The Hawaiians say despite what the judge rules, they have no plans of leaving the 17-acre resort property that has been in ruins since it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

“We are going to stay here and put up a big fight,” Kamu Hepa said last week. “There’s no way we can lose.”

Back in its glory days, Coco Palms was an icon, with Elvis Presley filming a scene of his movie “Blue Hawaii” in the resort’s lagoon and many celebrities staying at the hotel.

Today, it is easily missed during a drive past on Kuhio Highway.

Overgrown brush and coconut trees have taken over the property. Palm fronds and rotting coconuts litter the sidewalks once bustling with visitors and hotel staff.

None of the buildings or outbuildings are usable.

The occupiers live in temporary structures on part of the land near a river close to the mountains. They have cleaned up the area they occupy.

In the decades since its destruction, several developers have attempted to restore the hotel. None of them have been successful.

With plans on rebuilding, Waters and Greene say they purchased the land in 2012.

If development moves forward, the $175 million hotel will boast about 400 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center when completed.

Though the occupiers have been on the decrepit property for nearly a year, the $3.5 million selective demolition process began in June, with initial plans to begin the renovation and reconstruction of the resort this coming spring.

Hepa said what the courts are doing is treason and against the U.S. Constitution.

His family, Hepa said, has documents proving they own the land.

“They’re trying to steal our land,” he said.

Attempts to reach Greene and Waters for comment on this story have been unsuccessful.

Sarah Blane, spokesperson for Kauai County, said county officials are unable to preemptively comment on police matters.

  1. Excom December 25, 2017 2:47 am Reply

    Forget it Hepa , all you like do is make trouble for everybody.
    Go home already before you wind up in jail. You no more rights, zero.

  2. Charlie Chimknee December 25, 2017 6:37 am Reply

    Aloha, some do the shade cloth fencing has fallen down on the Kuhio Hwy side of the building…seems like a nice tropical paint job alone would make the “SHELL” of the concrete building look actually very nice while the Hawaiians and the developers go through the process that may take years to conclude.

    Upper Deck railings installed after the paint job could convert CocoPalms into a 7 day a week Farmers Market and Crafts Fair for the benefit of local farmers, crafts people locals and a fun to do things and shopping for Visitors. Bring in Hawaiian live entertainment and it would be a positive thing for the Island and the Eastside waiting fort he Return of Elvis.

    While KAUAI is 100 Times more beautiful than Bangkok, Thailand, Bangkok has a local farmers market and crafts fair there called the Chatuchak Market, they have over 15,000 stalls. It takes more than a day to browse them all, maybe a few days. Your sure to bring home some good food farm food, or already prepared and another good memory of KAUAI.

    It’s the only place suitable for a 7 day a week Market and fair that has roofs over the stalls and bathrooms avail and some one could use the fairly large rent income to assist their endeavor.

    Why if I had the time… ! ! !



  3. Angela Kaaihue December 25, 2017 6:53 am Reply

    Similar story here on Oahu. Neighborhood trying to steAL our 82-acre from my family. For 40 years my land parcal was not part of the association or even considered, then after we owned it, they said welcome to the association, here’s the rules, and here’s your fines and violations. Stop the development of my Hawaiian boys home, and pay uo!# Trial begins in Feb. I hope for a large payment for our 5 years of loss tied up in litigation. This is perfect example how they steal from you by lies, conspiracy, fraud, and I opted for a jury trial. I hope you guys work it out and get compensated would be a mutually benefecial.

  4. larry December 25, 2017 7:17 am Reply

    power in numbers….the fast ferry was turned away and that needs to be done with this monstrosity…..Kauai is out of room and to open that place back up would be an insult to the residents of the island….Aloha

  5. Reverend Malama Robinson December 25, 2017 7:58 am Reply

    “Civil Matter” Not! Genocide for over 125 years ends here.

  6. jake liggett December 25, 2017 8:47 am Reply

    Never before in history has a bunch of undereducated, underachieving, homeless alcoholics been able to stand in the way of big business and commercial progress. Good luck, dudes, but your “big fight” is going to amount little more than getting zapped with tazers, hauled away in handcuffs, and getting charged with criminal trespass.

  7. Steven McMacken December 25, 2017 1:44 pm Reply

    Wrong resort. Wrong place. Wrong time. I am s-o-o-o tired of reading over and over and over in the newspaper that the demolition process will begin “soon” . . . . and then see nothing happen! 25 years since Iniki, folks. The fault for this must certainly lie with the County of Kauai for its impotence and inability to follow through with these so-called developers. Frankly, I hope that Kamu Hepa does have the proper documentation proving that his family owns the land. Then the courts would have to acknowledge this and rule accordingly. Poetic justice.

  8. George Ho December 25, 2017 2:40 pm Reply

    Hepa is broken record. No respect common sense. He and his band of unproductive members of society should shut up and go away forever. They make rest of ohana looks like fools.

  9. Frequency Vince December 25, 2017 9:40 pm Reply

    get it right. this land is rightfully to the menehunes. the land was taken away from these people.

    If these guys can put as much effort as they are into this case to being productive in society…..

  10. Steve Martin December 25, 2017 11:29 pm Reply

    So tired of reading about the demolition process will begin soon and then see nothing happen. Huh? I have a past co worker who worked on the demo and it’s been complete for months. I was wondering when the the new work was going to begin and now I read spring 2018. With all the millions already spent on the demo and the hassles being created with the squawters next door will more than likely create an extension that will be brought on with state and county at no fault of theirs. Anyone against the developers put yourselves in the situation.

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