HOOSER: Money needed to preserve Coco Palms site

The auction of the Coco Palms Hotel held this past Monday at noon on the courthouse steps was at best anti-climatic.

The bottom line is that the “bank/lender” took back the property from the prior would-be developers who owed them the money that was used to purchase the property in the first place. As has been the case in previous attempts to develop the property, the deal-makers were never able to make the deal work.

It was predictable, actually. All of it. It’s like Groundhog day or deja vu all over again. The deal-makers arrive in our community, pledge their love and commitment, promise us the world, seek permit concessions from the county, are granted such concessions, string out the process for years, and then fail.

Full disclosure: When the council vote granting the initial “‘Iniki” permit concessions for this go-around was held, I’m proud to say I voted “no.”

Meanwhile, the buildings burn, the rats infest and the desecration continues.

Remember, this is a deeply sacred place. Properly referenced as Wailuanuiaho‘ano, it’s the birthplace of kings and queens. These are historic crown lands and once-hosted royal compounds, stately temple sites, a royal birthing site and other religious locales.

The eminent residences for the ali‘i were here, and it was the primary domain and seat of government for the reigning chiefs of the Puna moku, or district. Hidden beneath the earth are iwi kupuna — bones of the ancestors.

What’s next?

The community sentiment is unequivocal — no hotel, no resort, no timeshare and no luxury homes. Over 10,000 names have been collected of individuals who oppose a hotel development there. Even the Royal Coconut Coast Resort Association has stated they support converting that parcel into a cultural/educational center. From political leaders to the business community to the grassroots, the people of Kaua‘i are united on this one.

I Ola Wailuanui Working Group member and Kaua‘i Museum Director Chucky Boy Chock, speaking on his own behalf, said it most succinctly, “My pu‘uwai always had a place for Coco Palms….but today my na‘au humbly cries ‘Wailuanuiaho‘ano.’”

The goal of the I Ola Wailuanui Working Group, which I am honored to be a part of, is that Wailuanuiaho‘ano is to be owned by the community, developed by the community, and managed by the community — based first and foremost on a community vision honoring the deep history and culture of this sacred spot. The working group is further committed to a model that those who ultimately lead the discussion are those with ancestral roots in this ‘aina.

So then, what is next? There are two significant bridges yet to be crossed.

A community plan that will bring form to the vision and guide the future development of the property must be completed. It’s not enough to simply state support for a cultural center. What about canoe hale, educational facilities, music and entertainment, fishpond restoration, coconut-harvesting operations, kupuna and keiki gathering places and other possibilities?

The funds must be raised to purchase the property and support the community plan. These funds will come from individuals, trusts, foundations and organizations who share our love and commitment to Kaua‘i and, most of all, to Wailuanuiaho‘ano.

This effort will require everyone to step forward, from the grassroots $20 donation to the major donor $20 million anchor contribution. If you share the love of our island community and want to share in the work and in the satisfaction of helping to make this vision a reality, please join us at wailuanui.org.

Just in case the above is too nuanced. We need a major donor to serve as the lead “anchor contributor” with the capacity to provide the confidence needed for other major donors to step forward. At the end of the day, this vision will become a reality through collaboration and partnerships. Many hands will make light work.

Please help if you can. As always, I am more than willing to speak directly to anyone interested in discussing this or any topic relating to Kauaʻi, Hawai‘i and policy and politics. I can be contacted at GaryLHooser@gmail.com.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.

  1. J HARPER July 28, 2021 2:40 am Reply

    I can think of at one person who owns property on Kauai who could make this happen. MZ.

    1. Sam G July 28, 2021 4:04 pm Reply

      You don’t get rich by doing nice thing for people and giving your money away. Perhaps said person could be persuaded to act on behalf of the people by using the old ways of persuasion with a human sacrifice.

  2. alien July 28, 2021 7:58 am Reply

    Maybe we should be more concerned about housing and feeding the growing number of local people who are falling into the cracks. Any money raised should go towards taking care of humans, not purchasing land.

  3. Doug July 28, 2021 10:16 am Reply

    I would agree except for the following: NO educational facilities, music and entertainment, things like that. We DO NOT need another tourist trap (and it’s additional traffic) on the island, especially since they want to build “wave pool Disneyland” on the west side. Kauai needs to be the sleepy, low impact island that it was in the past. You want attractions? Go to Oahu. Coco Palms can be developed as a HAWAIIAN center for HAWAIIANS to get back to their roots and teach their children the old ways WITHOUT the Luau show atmosphere. Add that in and it becomes just another tourist draw.

    1. manawai July 29, 2021 5:09 pm Reply

      Doug – Maybe this is something OHA with its many millions of $’s can purchase and develop as you recommend. But then, OHA’s Trustees are going to look at it like a business; not a cultural nicety.

  4. Sam G July 28, 2021 10:32 am Reply

    Build a massive statue of Zuck and he will come…

    1. Sitonmy Facebook July 28, 2021 3:29 pm Reply

      He may look like the guy in the zombie movie that got bit and is trying to hide it, but he’s probably done more to improve Kauai than most locals. $4 mill for rise to work and $1 mill to covid relief goes a lot further than thoughts and prayers

      1. nobody July 29, 2021 8:13 am Reply

        That money is just passed out, mainly to non profits. Free money. Not sure this improves anything. We’ll see how this turns out.

  5. Virginia Beck July 28, 2021 1:41 pm Reply

    Get the property nominated by August 1, 2021 for the next round of World Heritage sites, appointed by UNESCO COMMITTEE… Papahanaumokuakea Cultural and Marine site.
    Volcano is another.
    Wailuanuiaho‘ano, it’s the birthplace of kings and queens., but also besides the cultural treasures it is a key to the Aha Pua’a of the watershed delta. Traditional water keepers managed the waters from the mountains to the sea. No diversions which excluded the native farmers riparian water rights. It is State Water that is being sold.

    So the area qualifies in two categories: Cultural and natural.

    Kaua’i is one of the jewels of the planet.

    The Hawaii Community Foundation has access to many wealth channels to benefit Hawai’i.
    The Zuckerberg-Chan funds are only one of the possible sources. As well as all of us.

    Mahalo…. A’ohe hana nui ka alu’ia.
    No task is too big when done together.

    Virginia. creating Global Legacy

  6. I saw a Vampire once July 28, 2021 2:19 pm Reply

    This development will not take place. The millionaire who bought this land for $22 m dollars, why would he pay $22 million dollars to the state? This operation already does not make sense. Capitalism means he gets the profit. There will be no profits.

    1. mana August 1, 2021 10:04 am Reply

      Vamp – The “millionaire” who “bought” the property was the Lender who had a lien on the property and whom the owners (borrowers) weren’t paying. So now the lender owns it and must deal with it. I think the owners owed the lender something like $45 million. So, the lender is taking a bath on that loan.

      Hawaii News Now

      “Private Capitol Group was the only bidder at a foreclosure auction Monday, offering just over $22 million for the land that was sold “as is.”

      That capitol group was the lender for the previous owners, an LLC run by Chad Waters and Tyler Greene. However, they failed in their development plan and owed more than $45 million.”

  7. Robin Clark July 28, 2021 5:59 pm Reply

    I think you mean anticlimactic? Sorry but Dad was an English teacher.

  8. someoneelse July 29, 2021 2:28 pm Reply

    “The community sentiment is unequivocal — no hotel, no resort, no timeshare and no luxury homes.” – Probably why we didn’t bid on it. I have visited the site in the past. We would have removed everything man made or 99 percent of it. Then redesigned keeping the environment and the possibility of another direct hit in mind. Our company does do profit sharing, promotions from within, possibility to grow within the company if they want (global operations), educational benefits, full medical for the employee and dependents, and we routinely give back to our local communities where we operate. I would rather have someone born in the islands, who is ethnically part Hawaiian, who devotes large sums of financial backing into green tech and earth operations redeveloping the property while providing meaningful jobs. We don’t have union employees in any of our operations. Although our employee benefits are regularly reviewed by legal teams in the best interest of the employees. But HEY have your nature loving community and provide income for the non wealthy some other way. One thing is for certain, I will not buy a mansion on Kauai looked into it but just feel stupid thinking about it. I do own a lot of land that we maintain to preserve its local habitats and nature. If you want a job doing that may have to wait a good 20yrs for an opening. I look at it this way. Preserve what is not developed and redevelop wisely and in this case take into account the history of the land. Good luck with the endeavors.

  9. The Big Kahauna July 31, 2021 6:35 am Reply

    I challenge Mr. Facebook publicly. I will donate 1% of my companies wealth to preserve the Coco Palms land as a place to celebrate Hawaiin Culture, If Zuke matches 1% of his Facebook holding to the project and builds a new state of the art hospital in Lihue.

    Yes, pretty cool you learned how to foil, come be one of the boys like some have been able to do. Keep the attitude at the front door, money is only good here helping a community, but if you have not noticed its only mainlanders who believe money buys status in a community that lives a daily life of Aloha.

    Now that your offical address is Kauai, (Wow to avoid paying higher property taxes) Perhaps you can find a way to make a big contribution to the community. Im sure the folks on City Council will be sure to recognize your contribution with a plaque.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.