LIHUE — Developer Tyler Greene said Wednesday that with legal disputes behind them, the project to rebuild the Coco Palms Resort is moving forward with an estimated completion date of late next year.
“The question is, ‘what’s going on,’ and when media and certain things get picked up, oftentimes our message doesn’t get conveyed the way that we anticipated it getting conveyed,” he told the planning committee.
There are, however, still some issues to work through.
The Coco Palms development is now under contested case proceedings with the county. Deputy Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull said the department determined the project’s developers were in violation of permitting conditions.
According to documents, the majority of the violations appear to be due to time constraints with permits.
Coco Palms Hui LLC is scheduled to appear before the Planning Commission on the permit violations on Sept. 25.
Greene said the issues with a group of Native Hawaiian activists who began occupying a piece of the property in February 2017 and claimed ownership through ancestral rights led to delays.
Though they attempted to work with the occupiers to resolve the issue, they ended up in a lengthy legal battle over the land.
“We tried to sit with them and work through and understand their goals and their agenda and what they were hoping to accomplish, but we saw early on it would be best to let the court process run itself through” Greene said.
In that situation, Greene said they wanted to avoid conflict.
“My heart goes out and I sympathize deeply with those folks because they’re upset,” he said. “They’re looking for certain things and not sure where to go to find those certain things.”
So they filed a district court case and a circuit court case for a writ of possession to get them off of the property, and were successful. But the circuit court case dealing with quiet title took longer.
“When they filed that in circuit court that meant we were stuck and that meant that they jammed us up,” Greene said.
When their title was questioned during the quiet title proceedings, they knew it was going to be a long process.
“Nonetheless, we stayed the course in the spirit of Coco Palms,” Greene said. “The spirit of Coco Palms has been and will always be to unite people and we knew when we were in that court, we had to do everything we could to try and stay true to that vision and true to that spirit and so we did everything we could do to not make it contentious,” he said.
Greene said the appeal for the circuit court case was dropped Aug. 22.
“That meant that now the runway is clear and by getting that court case and that appeal dropped, that meant we could go back to our title company and ask them to provide title insurance,” he said.
With title insurance in hand, they are able to move forward with their project, Greene said.
He said Coco Palms Hui LLC received an email Sept. 10 from their title insurance company stating they would provide them with title insurance.
The partners that came on with them in the beginning of the project are still backing Coco Palms Hui LLC, Greene said.
“In the last three weeks we’ve made tremendous strides and actually currently are very excited and very enthusiastic because again, now the runway’s clear,” he said.
Barring anymore unforeseen issues, Greene said they are on track to open the hotel by the end of next year.
Once complete, the $145 million project is slated to boast 350 guest rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.
Here is a look at money spent to date by the Coco Palms developers:
• $110,000, Oct. 15, 2017, aid in historic preservation mission of Wailua/Waipouli area including creation of educational programs and signage; aid in efforts including moku and ahupuaa signage of the Wailua area; for construction of a new bus stop along Kuhio Highway;
• $93,750, June 30, provide an in lieu payment for the cost of a dedicated turn lane on Haleilio Road;
• $499,202 paid in property taxes;
w $244,000 for permits and fees;
• Total contribution to county since closing May 2016: $946,952;
• $4 milion spent in demo and cleanup of buildings;
• $139,950 for a dust fence;
• About $100,000 in general cleanup.
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.