LIHU‘E — While the Planning Commission received over 115 pieces of written and oral testimony overwhelmingly calling for the reconsideration of plans to redevelop the area of the Coco Palms Resort, there wasn’t much they could do.
Yesterday, the commission heard a status report update on the Class IV Zoning Permit, Project Development Use Permit, Variance and Special Management Area Use Permits which were initially granted to Honolulu-based Coco Palms Hui, LLC for the property in 2015.
In March 2019, Stillwater Equity Partners took over the property after Coco Palms Hui defaulted on more than $11 million in financing on a $22 million mortgage. In June of this year, foreclosure proceedings came into play, with two proposals that will eventually lead to the auction of the property.
During this intermediary period, to maintain and recoup some of the property’s value, actions toward development continue.
Thus far, Coco Palms Hui has over 20 plans submitted for final approval and is working on the final eight with the county on submittal, as reported Tuesday by Jon Pang, a lawyer representing Coco Palms Hui. A draft of the deed had been submitted to the Planning Department and referred to the county attorney for review.
Foreclosure proceedings do not affect permits, as those are associated with the land through June 30, 2021, so continuing to work to meet target deadlines and expectations must continue.
As it literally stands, the concrete structures that remain on the property are meant to be incorporated into the final improvements, although reports earlier this year suggested the structure could be in danger.
“The demolition that’s supposed to have been done has been done,” Pang said. Recently, talks have been to reduce the third floor, but those plans have not been finalized.
Currently, cattle and horses have been roaming the property to maintain some of the guinea grass, and about 60 coconut trees have been harvested.
“The developer has proceeded with the plans in order to … provide value,” Pang said. “Hopefully the value of those plans will benefit the next owner, if there is one.”
Since the item was listed on the agenda as a status report, the commission could only receive the item, not take any specific action to halt the development of the area.
It’s an emotional discourse. Written testimony from concerned citizens ranged from calling for the space to be celebrated as a historical and cultural site to as an educational institution, but most agreed that heydey of Coco Palms Resort has passed.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden, in her individual capacity as a member of the Kaua‘i County Council, wrote into the commission her recommendation that the resort entitlement be extinguished and sent back to the Board of Land and Natural Resources to be “set aside for a future community wilderness or cultural park. Those prime, historically significant lands should not be attached to the problematic private pieces to help move a distressed asset.”
Former mayor JoAnn Yukimura wrote to the commission that the permits “should have never been issued,” stating that the project had design flaws and the island is already inundated with hotels.
“Removing the cloud of resort development from the properties will enable the community to come together around a new vision for that site — a vision that could include a park and culture center that interprets the history of the place … ,” Yukimura wrote.
When Coco Palms Hui LLC came forward all those years ago, it commissioned architect Ron Agor to design an updated 350-room resort and rebuilding cottages on the property, reminiscent to the preferred suites of famed celebrities who walked its halls.
“The county and people of Kaua‘i have been generous in (the last 28 years),” Rick Cooper said during public comment. “It’s sad to see it go, but unfortunately that’s the situation. Elvis has left the building.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.