Controversial Princeville glamping proposal withdrawn

PRINCEVILLE — The controversial glamping development proposed for a portion of the Princeville Makai Woods Golf Course has been withdrawn by applicant Starwood Capital Group.

Efforts to halt the 50-tent “glamorous camping” proposal on open space were aggressive, with residents teaming together to protect the master-planned Princeville community in a nearly year-and-a-half-long back-and-forth about what developments should be allowed on open-zoned districts.

Starwood representatives informed the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association, as well as the Kaua‘i County Council, of its permit application withdrawal on Tuesday morning. An affiliate of Starwood owns the in-progress 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay on Ka Haku Road, Makai Golf Course and Woods Course in Princeville.

“We are going back to the drawing board and intend to review all of the potential options for development that will be available to us when the current land-use covenant expires in 2026,” Starwood Capital Group Vice President Jason Cruce said Tuesday, noting a part of the Princeville master plan covenant which states that the golf courses remain development-free for another five years.

A Planning Commission public hearing was to be held on Dec. 14 for the 362-page glamping permit application that was submitted in early October.

Proposed on about 63 acres of land on the first through third holes of the Wood Course, the developed campground would have included 50 tent-like units, a pedestrian/golf cart path, outdoor decks and fire bowls. The proposal also included an arrival pavilion and additional resort parking.

According to a Nov. 23 Planning Department director’s report, the project would have been developed in three phases, with the department monitoring the project for two years, recording grievances and the developer returning to the Planning Commission to address issues. If there were no grievances, the applicant would be allowed to move forward into the next phase of the project.

The director’s report also notes Bill No. 2822 (now known as Bill No. 2838), a bill that would prohibit developed campgrounds in open-zoned or agricultural districts, would have restricted the proposal. While this Nov. 23 report suggested the Planning Commission approve the proposal, it noted that should the bill pass, the Planning Department would not give its blessing.

“If the bill passes as currently proposed and is adopted into law before the public hearing date of this application, then the department would amend its recommendation to deny the subject permits,” the report states.

The bill, up for final reading today before the council, is expected to pass unanimously. And had the application run its course, residents wished to see the council approve the bill on Dec. 1 and have Mayor Derek Kawakami sign it into law before the Dec. 14 hearing.

Open-space deals, agreements and covenants

The Princeville at Hanalei Community Association represents nearly 3,000 homeowners. In an attempt to make a deal, earlier this year the PHCA board and Starwood discussed permanently committing the golf-course lands to open space and other Princeville community benefits from Starwood in exchange for the board’s support of certain development projects, General Manager Maylette Garces said.

In May, Starwood offered the golf-course lands to open space permanently in exchange for the board’s support of the glamping and other development projects. This offer, Garces said, was only good for 18 months.

“The board felt that condition and other conditions imposed by Starwood were unacceptable,” Garces said. “Because of those unacceptable conditions, the board unanimously rejected Starwood’s offer at its June 17, 2021 meeting.”

After that, the PHCA board told Starwood it would be interested in a restrictive covenant to protect the remainder of the Princeville golf-course lands, and included proposed language. Prior to its withdrawal, PHCA even filed a petition to intervene as an interested party in Starwood’s glamping application.

“The board is sensitive to the fact that, within our community, some individual members are strongly in favor of PHCA making an agreement with Starwood, while others are strongly against this, and others are somewhere in between or perhaps indifferent,” Sam George, president of the PHCA board of directors, said. “PHCA will continue to advocate on behalf of the entire association in its discussions with Starwood to achieve the best possible outcome for our community as a whole.”

In a February survey, 94% of Princeville residents and property owners believed that preserving open space in Princeville was critical, and nearly 82% of 782 people who responded to the PHCA survey said preserving open space — including golf courses and parks — in the community is “very important.”

About 42% of respondents said they would support litigation to prevent development on Princeville’s open spaces, while just 19.6% said they would not.

Designer, planner, golf architect and North Shore homeowner Robert Trent Jones Jr. remarked that the 1971 master plan covenant should continue to be respected for years to come, with no expiration date.

“Starwood ultimately heard the community,” Jones said. “They’re invested, and therefore it’s a win-win for the community. It’s a unique master plan which should be respected by the community, and apparently is being respected.”

But what residents see as a fight for open space continues.

The organization Save Open Space Hui, previously Save Our Space, formed early on in the proposal process, updating residents of developments from board and community meetings.

“This has been a wake-up call for us all, and a reminder of how important it is for the residents of Kaua‘i to band together to protect open space,” the hui said in a statement Tuesday. “Open space is a critical contributor to Kaua‘i’s continuing good health and welfare, and open spaces are key to maintaining the amazing quality of life for residents and visitors alike.”

However, the hui remained hesitant to see this as a full win.

“Starwood Capital Group is still looking for a way to provide a hefty return to its investors, so while the spectre of glamping on the North Shore appears to be over for the moment, Kaua‘i must be prepared to respond to the next developers’ promises of investment returns at the expense of Kaua‘i’s citizens,” the hui statement continued.

”We are not Disneyland, and we do not want to be merely a way for investors to line their pockets.”

This article was updated on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, for clarity.

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Sabrina Bodon, editor, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

9 Comments
  1. MaiTai Cameron December 1, 2021 12:58 am Reply

    Is this only the rich and famous are living in Princeville area of Kaua’i? It’s always green in the north shore of Kaua’i. And wet. Really a nice touch to the area. If you like that kind of weather year around, then I think this would do it. No development or minimum development done to the area is needed. I always thought Princeville was for the rich and famous.


  2. Doug December 1, 2021 9:12 am Reply

    ”We are not Disneyland, and we do not want to be merely a way for investors to line their pockets.” Ah, but we are Disneyland, just ask the Mayor and Council which have done absolutely nothing to limit the tourist traffic here since the “surge” after the pandemic. As to Starwood, they will just build more permanent visitor accommodations, adding to the traffic woes of our island.


    1. your inconvenience is another's livelihood December 2, 2021 3:56 am Reply

      yeah, so long as you can get thru Kapa’a quickly, tourist jobs don’t matter.
      just remember: traffic is the result of strong economic activity. maybe consider those of us who work for a living; we welcome the “surge.”


  3. Lola December 1, 2021 10:00 am Reply

    Princeville is a planned vacation resort community filled with independently wealthy babies that are bored out of their minds.
    If you don’t like the “Disneyland” aspect, then you should not have moved to a vacation resort.
    Everyone was aware of the circumstances before buying here.
    Now they want to make it their own personal retirement community.
    Move if you don’t like it.


    1. No Get Nutz December 1, 2021 8:28 pm Reply

      The natives don’t like the idea either.
      This is coming from a pure bred native.
      Hawaii is not a playground this is our home.


      1. nah December 2, 2021 10:39 pm Reply

        I didn’t realize the native hawaiians wanted to keep Princeville golf courses free of tents .


    2. well said Lola December 2, 2021 4:01 am Reply

      and why do they call themselves “Princeville at Hanalei Community Association?”
      are they so jealous of Hanalei??


  4. Cydney December 2, 2021 6:43 am Reply

    I am a long-time Princeville resident that has seen many changes. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that to me the golf course is not an open space. If you want to use it you have to pay big money. It is constantly being sprayed with pesticides and chemicals. Let’s try to have some respect for the environment and the people when we do these master plans.


  5. Bernard Markowicz December 2, 2021 2:41 pm Reply

    Since Starwood Capital Group owns the Makai golf course, it will now able to develop, or sell the Makai land for development (1 house per acre) when the current land-use covenant expires in 2026. And the residents adjacent to the golf course won’t be able to do anything about it. The Princeville residents would have been much better off relaxing their demands and reaching an agreement with Starwood. Starwood is a sophisticated organization and they rightfully came to the conclusion that, in the end, glamping was a marginal activity at best, especially since their business model is to resell their properties once they are up and running.


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