Don’t blame developers for all the delays

Well, it seems hardly anyone is happy with the developers of Coco Palms resort. Complaints are growing that nothing is being done with this property that has stood shuttered and damaged since Hurricane Iniki struck the island in 1992.

Both former Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and current Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami have expressed some dissatisfaction with the lack of progress and have made it clear they believe the county has done its part and the developers have not.

There are calls for turning the land into a community park. There have been calls for it to be turned into kupuna housing. Calls for a cultural park. Leave it as it is. Flatten it. Hold concerts there. Calls for Larry Rivera to hold more wedding ceremonies there. Calls for the ghost of Elvis to revisit and shoot another wedding scene for a remake of “Blue Hawaii.”

Some of those are good ideas and should be pursued.

But before — like everyone else, it seems — we chastise Tyler Greene and Chad Waters, the men behind Coco Palm Hui, let’s look at a few things.

First, Coco Palms was sitting there for 20 years in its rundown condition, its glory days forgotten, long before Greene and Waters arrived. There were a few proposals to develop the property then, but nothing came of them. It’s hard to find anyone on this island who seriously has led a project to do something with Coco Palms other than talk about it.

Greene and Waters have invested more money, and more time, than anyone, into Coco Palms, over the past few years. They had a vision and we hope they still have a vision. We hope they have not given up (though most people have no way of knowing that since Greene and Waters aren’t saying much of anything these days). They could have been like the millions of others who drove by Coco Palms, said “what a shame,” and continued on their way. They didn’t. Sure, they saw an opportunity to make some money but, frankly, these are smart guys, they likely had other opportunities to make money and not have had half the headaches.

Consider, besides the estimated $20 million to buy the land, they have spent around $6 million for property taxes, permits, fees, demolition, a dust fence, and cleanup of the buildings on the property. And we’re condemning them for not doing enough as quickly as we think they should?

Their challenges to restore this once-iconic land were already major and many before some Hawaiian sovereignty advocates suddenly took up residence on the land and claimed it belonged to them through ancestral rights. Not sure why that never came up when the land was sitting there vacant for so many years. A large group remained on the property for more than a year before they were removed by law enforcement. That certainly seems like a long time to remove someone who claimed they owned the land that another person had paid for the rights to own and develop.

Let’s just say if someone moved into your backyard tomorrow and claimed they owned it through ancestral rights, you would call police and expect law enforcement to come remove them promptly. You would not expect to have to spend a year in court trying to evict someone from land you bought.

The point here is that this legal battle set the the project timeline back more than a year, and even more troublesome, it likely caused investors and potential investors to have second thoughts. Would you invest in a development tied up more than a year because someone claimed the land as their own, moved in and refused to go until so ordered by the court? Even then, it took a raid of law officers from Oahu to clear the property. And this case isn’t over, mind you, as the claimants of the land have not gone away and are appealing. This entire episode was something that the developers had not foreseen and one from which they are still likely trying to overcome when talking to investors about their plans for a 350-room, $145 million resort.

Do we all hope to see something done with Coco Palms? Of course. No one wants to drive by and look at these pieces of the past still standing in despair. We all agree something must be done.

Are the developers just going to give up this land in which they invested more than $25 million so it can become a park? No, they are not. If someone wants to pay them a fair price for it, we’re guessing they will listen. We don’t blame them. We would not be surprised if another buyer came forth. If they found a way to part with this property, they would do it.

Does it seem like the developers aren’t following through? Yes, it does. But considering what they have invested in time and money into Coco Palms, it’s clear that they have much at stake. Many of the delays are beyond their control.

Finally, we believe Greene and Waters have done a terrible job of communicating with the community about their plans. They may consider this a private venture that should be kept private, but it’s far from private. We understand trying to secure financing for a major resort project isn’t something in which you include the public. But we do call for Greene and Waters to improve their public relations efforts on Kauai, if they are serious about continuing with their plans for Coco Palms.

The community won’t support people it does not know, so hold a public meeting. Hold two or three or four. Talk to regular people, not just the officials. Let them know who you are and what you stand for and why you’re here and why you want to restore Coco Palms to its glory days. Give them an update on how things stand. You must do a better job of connecting with the people of this island. They need to know you. You must do a better job of keeping the community informed about what’s happening at Coco Palms.

Perhaps then, your worst critics will become your best supporters.

Well, that might be expecting too much.

  1. Carrie eckert March 17, 2019 6:16 am Reply

    I agree with most of all l you are saying. But I can see why the developers are a bit silent. I remember way back around 2005 when they opened a sales office and started presales and as years progressed showed the layout of the development. Some residents in the area were complaining about the lights from a tennis court that would bother them. It seemed like everything they did, some some was going to complain. Unfortunately, some residents see the eyesore as a better alternative than progress in the form of bringing tourist to Kauai. They want the slice of heaven all to themselves and no one else has the right to enjoy it but them. Why can’t the residents be prideful of a beautiful building that contributes to the economic business to the island. Let’s face it. You cannot stop growth on the island. It is inevitable. And yes I know, traffic is a problem! But it’s a problem for the whole island so don’t make them a scapegoat for it.

  2. Charlie Chimknee March 17, 2019 9:01 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Going back to the CAUSE OF THIS PROBLEM.

    The Garden Island reported after INIKI, that that the contractor bid for the Coco Palms hurricane repair costs would be $27 million; but their insurance company (?) offered only $7 million…and never the ‘twain did meet”. Now Greene and Waters are saying the cost is $175 million and asking for any and all new partners, minimum put up is $100,000 as reported in the Garden Island. That would be only 1,750 investors. So far that has apparently not happened.

    How could the insurnce company be so far off in fair cost when we all saw the devastation to Coco Palms even by just driving by. Then the years of abandon accelerated the deterioration further. Should the insurance company take responsibility? What insurance company was that, as it was not reported in the paper.

    Other places on Kauai were not provided adequate repair reimbursements as well and suffered through decades of self pay and self made repairs, hardly what people pay insurance for. How did Mrs. Grace Guslanser, Owner of Coco Palms, feel back then. Betrayed…? She was offered $ .25 on the dollar. How could she come up with the other $20 million with no income and Coco Palms disastrously closed.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but also didn’t the newspaper report that Coco Palms was paying a lease to the State of Hawaii on the land of Coco Palms…? If so, when was it bought from the state ? Were Greene and Waters the first to buy it? Just Curious.

    If the Garden Island is correct, if these men have $26 million into Coco Palms already that is a lot invested especially if it is their own money, but where are they going to get the other almost $150,000,000 to finish the $175 million job.

    This could go on forever…!

    Both the Mayors, Bernard and Derek, represented and represent us the community for this situation right on the highway, but it has been cleaned up tremendously compared to a while ago, just a tropical paint job on all that concrete, at least on the front row facing the road, would make a world of difference, and at least give us the feeling of brighter things to come and hopefully return as in the old days.

    $7 million vs. $27 million Iniki insurance claim, recent $26 million invested vs. $175 million for today’s repairs…it’s never been easy doing business on Kauai.

    Clean and paint what can be seen from the highway would go a long way to soften the process and feelings and impressions of what is happening or what is not happening.



    1. james March 18, 2019 7:57 am Reply

      Unfortunately, that’s the way insurance companies do business. Lie, cheat, steal, low-ball and force you to file a lawsuit, spend tens of thousands of dollars if not more, and force them to do the right thing. There is a reason they own huge high-rise skyscrapers in major cities and report obscene profits year after year. The only safeguard are trial lawyers willing to battle the insurance companies to the bitter end, and good ones are difficult to find. Look at the folks who suffered damage from our record rains and flooding last year. Most are still battling their insurance companies for fair compensation after paying years of timely premiums. Welcome to today’s world; a sad state of affairs. Regulation by the government can be a good thing in certain situations, like with insurance companies being required to deal fairly with their insureds or face loss of license.

  3. Makani B. Howard March 17, 2019 9:35 am Reply

    I totally agree with you. They should hold a public meeting. Let the public know what is going on and what the intend to do, and a possible timeline. I think what they will do is better than what it looks like right now!

  4. numilalocal March 17, 2019 10:18 am Reply

    A big portion of the $6M cited as costs are indeed property taxes – perhaps on the order of $2000/acre/year? Add it up – property size and years paid. Regardless of use – or lack thereof – those taxes get paid each year and does anyone really think that the county’s going to give up that income stream to turn the place into a park?

    1. Da Shadow March 17, 2019 2:59 pm Reply

      the county has already decided that tax revenue is not so important for the welfare of Kauai and its residents. >>the year-long prohibition of the 81 transient vacation rentals in Ha’ena & Wainiha means no GET & TAT taxes collected (but yes, the county still collects the permit fee, even while prohibiting rentals…)

      few places are as backwards as Kauai, when it comes to fiscal sense.

  5. kauaidoug March 17, 2019 12:26 pm Reply

    Go on Forever?? Already has. Talk about cleaning up is a good point and the general simple clean up done last week makes a big difference. Mahalo for that! It is a mess and it should be painted. Any good neighbor would do that. I drive by it almost every day and if I have people with me it always gets “questioning” remarks. Too bad, the view on the other side is remarkable, too. Build the Highway and the rest will follow. To Paraphrase, badly, from Bull Durham.

  6. RG DeSoto March 17, 2019 12:50 pm Reply

    “Both former Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and current Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami…..have made it clear they believe the county has done its part and the developers have not.”

    This is an absolute fabrication–CYA rhetoric and nothing more (or as the old timers say “shibai”). The county, primarily in the person of Mike Dahilig, is largely responsible for the project not moving forward. Dahilig, was previously the head of the Planning Department and was instrumental at thwarting and obstructing the path to a permit. His actions cost the previous and current property owner millions of dollars. It’s common knowledge that Dahilig is an anti-development obstructionist and proponent of irrational, unreasonable rules, regulations and other means of interference in the permitting process and property rights in general.
    Dahilig is no longer the planning director (a very Soviet-like title). But where is he now? At Kawakami’s right hand where he is able to do more damage and coach his boss on what BS to perpetrate on the masses who will respond with the usual “let’s make it a park” drivel. You know, the old “let someone else pay for my preferences.
    I have nothing but sympathy for the current and past owners. They are literally between the rock and a hard place. If they tell the truth, Kawakami and his boys will come down on him; if he reveals his plans all the “use someone else’s’ money” whiners and activists will hammer him.
    What’s to expect when virtually everything has become politicized?
    RG DeSoto

  7. Tom March 17, 2019 1:59 pm Reply

    Once again, the Garden Island doesn’t do its history homework. Greene and Waters bought the property just as the permits were going to expire. They put down a minimum of money hoping financing would come through. It was always a scam — come in at the last minute, pretend to be saviors, and get funding from others. But anyone who took a look would know it was a boondoggle. Because the property was grandfathered, they didn’t have to meet ocean setbacks and flood plan requirements. But they were forced to keep the building plans the same. They were forced to adhere to the architecture drawings already submitted. And that made construction too costly for any real developer to jump into the project. And then the Hawaiians, like they haven’t been saying the same thing for 50 years. The Hawaiians were at every planning commission meeting in 2006-2008, when the last best rebuild was going through the motions. Last I heard, the Coco Palms hui couldn’t even afford to pay their landscapers, and a bunch of folks had leins in the property.

  8. behappy March 17, 2019 3:40 pm Reply

    If you have ever tried to get just a simple building project through the county planning and development departments, then you know where the hang-up is. The county can and will break you if they choose. A simple detailed process for all regardless of the size of the project would help everyone in losing time to see their plans approved. Let’s get real on why projects do not progress to completion. Many times it has nothing to do with the builders or developers. It’s politics and power!

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