Coco Palms status hearing ‘ignominious’

In the history of the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission, its meeting this past Tuesday to hear a status report on the derelict former Coco Palms Resort in Wailua may rank as one of the most ignominious gatherings it has ever held.

The meeting was a COVID-caused hybrid, with some people actually attending and others listening in on a conference line, so it’s impossible to determine how many people participated.

However, the posted agenda listed 99 members of the public who wanted to testify. Another 21 submitted written testimony.

Everyone who testified — verbally or in writing — advocated for turning Coco Palms, which has stood in constantly-worsening decay since it was devastated by Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992, into a community cultural center or park of some kind. It has been inarguably true for at least five years that this is what the public wants to see happen to the property.

The Planning Commission had set a “status report” on Coco Palms. So, John Pang, a Honolulu lawyer who represents the current owners of the property, appeared.

So did Sean Skanchy, a local employee of Stillwater Equity Partners LLC, the Utah firm that now controls Coco Palms. Stillwater works with another Utah firm, Private Capital Group, which foreclosed on Coco Palms Hui, the supposed Honolulu developer which tried to redevelop the hotel for several years. Appearing by phone was Ron Agor, the long-time project architect.

All seven members of the Planning Commission were present: Glenda Nogami-Streufert, chair; Donna Apisa, vice chair; and Roy Ho, Melvin Chiba, Helen Cox, Francis DeGracia and Lori Otsuka.

First, they listened to a half-dozen people give oral testimony. There was no evidence the commissioners had read any of the written testimony. The few questions they asked suggested they were, as a group, largely ignorant of the history of Coco Palms and how abysmally their predecessors on the commission and throughout county government have handled the entire fiasco relating to the resort.

The tone also made it clear that the commissioners were bored by their task, which should have been to expose the most recent developments — or utter lack therof — in the former resort’s struggle. It’s in foreclosure because Coco Palms Hui essentially defaulted on all of its $22 million in debt.

Then, it was Pang’s, Skanchy’s and Agor’s turn. Skanchy described the ways Stillwater has tried to control weeds on the property and how it has harvested coconuts from 50 trees and how the company “has also provided increased security.” Anyone who drives past Coco Palms would probably question whether it rises to the level of “well-maintained.”

For what it’s worth, I asked a top Kaua‘i Police Department official a few weeks ago if Coco Palms remained a hot spot of drug-selling — a status it has had for many years. The police officer said the problem is little changed.

Skanchy said Stillwater still hasn’t finished eight of 29 building-permit applications it has been working on for more than a year. He said Stillwater has “spent well over $1 million” on architectural and other fees. “It’s our intent to proceed with these plans,” he said. “We feel like we’ve met the requirements.” With a collective straight face, Stillwater’s people said they intend to rebuild Coco Palms.

For his part, Pang said the ongoing foreclosure “will not affect the permit in terms of whoever buys it. It may turn out that the lender bids on it and gets it. Hopefully, it will benefit the next owner, if there is one.”

What little new information the “status report” disclosed was that the concrete in the surviving shells of what were once the hotel’s main buildings is so severely deteriorated that it may be necessary to cut off the framing of all of the third floors.

Not once did the three men even acknowledge community concerns about the blight that Coco Palms has brought on Kaua‘i for more than two decades.

With that, they were pretty much done. The planning commissioners asked a couple of meaningless questions.

Then the commission voted, 7-0, to “receive” the report. That means, essentially, they decided to keep ignoring the situation for some undefined period into the future.

The county is, beyond doubt, in a difficult position with Coco Palms. The county’s power to take over the property through condemnation is virtually nonexistent. It can’t even order the existing structures to be demolished. Even if it could, COVID has public budgets too stressed for that to happen.

There is nothing to stop the commission — or the mayor, for that matter — from appointing a committee to work with the property owner and the community to try to come up with some solution. Maybe the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, a statewide nonprofit, could purchase Coco Palms. Facetiously, so could Mark Zuckerberg.

Beryl Blaich, a Kilauea community leader who submitted testimony for Tuesday’s hearing, found it all more than a little dispiriting. “It’s certainly been unrealistic to accept that it was going to be rebuilt,” she said a few hours after the hearing.

“So at this point, I feel strongly that we should boldly go for a different vision. Sometimes, it’s a fine line between a vision and a hallucination.”

•••

Allan Parachini is a Kilauea resident, furniture-maker, journalist and retired public-relations executive who writes periodically for The Garden Island.

12 Comments
  1. Steven McMacken August 16, 2020 3:52 am Reply

    Around and around it goes and where it stops . . . nobody knows. The one good thing out of all of this is that Coco Palms is looking more and more like the perfect set for a disaster movie.


  2. Ron z August 16, 2020 6:36 am Reply

    rgzielen@sbcglobal.net. So here we go again. The same b s what’s the county waiting for .the way it’s going it’s going to be another 25 plus years of looking at that pile of crap. The county show some balls take charge n knock the damn thing down .its the county’s land make it work for the people .if there worried about tax dollars then raise these second homes that are worth multimillions and are used sparingly . How many of these homes belong to locals . So charge them accordingly. Elvis n his other bitches left the building . Make the coco palms a area for the people to use a park I need of a updated hospital n throw in affordable housing for all that need it .


  3. Kauaidoug August 16, 2020 8:45 am Reply

    Pathetic!!! An eyesore, hangout on one of our historic areas and beaches and the county is powerless? At least widen the highway NOW while there is no commercial concern. If we have to stare at this eyesore let’s be driving by at 35 instead of bumper to bumper.


  4. Uncleaina August 16, 2020 10:13 am Reply

    This is the definition of the term “Ship of Fools”


  5. Rev Dr Malama August 16, 2020 10:53 am Reply

    Yes… humor is necessary in these unpresidented times!
    This article is biased and grammatically flawed by a foreign person who somehow has claimed to be an author of newspapers????? Lol!
    Everyone who has resided on Kauai knows that the acting government is a facade and generally holds no integrity nor authority over the territory but we have endured despite the illusion of protocol and community input.
    Sadly the writing is on the crumbling walls……
    Kicking the ball down the road again in the hope of another cash cow climactic event or hand out from a foreign country or elitist arrives….. business as usual here in the pirate’s Paradise!


  6. CT August 16, 2020 4:30 pm Reply

    Alan: What website does a person find the posted agenda in advance?
    I have been looking at County of Kauai website in area of webcast meeting and Planning Commission area not updated since April.


  7. MisterM August 16, 2020 8:10 pm Reply

    “There was no evidence the commissioners had read any of the written testimony. The few questions they asked suggested they were, as a group, largely ignorant of the history of Coco Palms and how abysmally their predecessors on the commission and throughout county government have handled the entire fiasco relating to the resort.”

    Oh, shocker! Nobody on the commission has any business serving on it

    Coco Palms should never be allowed to be rebuilt – 100 to 1 the rest of that decaying pile of garbage will have to be demolished – little chance 2 decades of salt air hasn’t wreaked havoc on the rebar in the concrete. And why can’t the County declare it a public nuisance and have it demolished – the amount of County time wasted on never-ending oversight and half-cocked development plans far exceeds to cost to demo it. Besides a disgraceful eyesore, it’s a haven for illicit activity.


    1. DanielSotelo August 18, 2020 4:36 pm Reply

      Simple Solution… break um down give it back to the Hawaiians maybe it could be used to solve our homeless problem.


  8. Kauaidoug August 17, 2020 8:47 am Reply

    Anyone elses comments not making on here? Either someone is deleting or this site not working right.
    So for the third attempt to post here
    FIX THE DARN ROAD in front of Palms while everyone scratches heads and wherever while the place is vacant and island empty.


    1. Debra Kekaualua August 18, 2020 7:01 am Reply

      i Am one that writes and writes and writes, and every request even my brothers Obit was dismissed, cuz TGI cok and warring americanvoter militaropoliticaojudiciaro collusion continues., 50-years paying attention AND 2018, i ran for Kauai mayor to UNdo the huge mess made by the fire hydrant leg-lifting competition, as well as Kenji from the FBI who has told Hawaii, “Nobody is above the law”.

      Exposing the COK Retroactively chiefs of popo, commissions, department gangsters et al dannerinian friends of Kealoha Katherine’s guilty fraud, is the job of the tenants that are blamed and where USAF funding plans without EIS to install billion $ Ballistic missile, Launch Intercept Mana facility, closing Polihale Indefinitely while portapoties removed from “bridge build hanakapiai” transported via red helicopter with toiletpaper and shishi seen door unsecured flies right over heiau hula platform and WE got video of that mess. We are not the problem! USA overthrow of our monarchy and ongoing liars status, 127-years of this kukai! Beat it terrorists!


  9. Rev Dr Malama August 17, 2020 8:48 am Reply

    Using large and unusual words to SHAME the resident government officials is the consistent M.O. of this writer who has resided on KAUAI for less than most and shows even less respect for the Aina and people who have roots of hundreds of if not thousands of years….. as Polynesian Seafaring People who once reigned and are buried in the Coco Palms area that is a large and diverse complex of Hawai’i History……

    Atrocious behavior by all and grammatically speaking, the insults are overwhelming to eye, ear and heart…..
    Foreign politics have no authority over Wailua and Amakua will have a hand at continued demise of the faulty structure and blatant disregard of the Hawai’ian IWI AND HEAU that continue to be DESECRATED AND FOUGHT OVER BY THE MEN OF WORTHLESSNESS AS THEIR IDOL. The almighty dollar is falling against the Mana of Ke AKUA and all faithful.


  10. james August 18, 2020 7:33 am Reply

    It’s our version of the Roman Colosseum. It’s a reminder of an ancient culture, the “Elvis era” of Kauai. Leave it just as it is, because it tells us of man’s folly that he thinks he can dominate Mother Nature. (This is satire; sad that I have to explain this but, as a avid reader of letters and comments, it is obviously necessary.)


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