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Monday, February 26, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Feb. 26, 2024

THE NEXT KAʻŪ COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN ACTION COMMITTEE MEETING is Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. at St. Jude's Church in Ocean View. The public has the option to register to attend the meeting live or by Zoom. Link is at https://www.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJIscO-prDwvHGcaMj1vWKHT2CRXdutAmTU#/registration.
    Public testimony is invited, with a three minute limit for each person speaking live or by Zoom. There will be no YouTube live meeting but video will be uploaded within several days after the meeting.
    Members of the Kaʻū Community Development Plan Action Committee are: Jesse Ke, Ka'ohinani
Mokuhali'i, Leina'ala Enos, Babette Morrow, Jason Masters, Pernell Hanoa, Catherine Williams, and Kaweni Ibarra. One position is vacant.   
     Members of the public can apply to become members of the Kaʻū Community Development Plan Action Committee, as positions open up, through the Mayor's website at https://www.hawaiicounty.gov/our-county/boards-commissions-application
    The Chairperson's announcement on the agenda for Wednesday notes that the application for a Special Management Area permit from Black Sand Beach, LLC will be before the Windward Planning Commission at its meeting on Thursday, March 7 at 9 a.m. Black Sand Beach, LLC plans to restore infrastructure and golf course and build some 234 units of accommodations, as well as retail and other commercial facilities at Punalu'u. See its plan and background reports at https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/1/doc/127617/Page1.aspx.  

BLACK SAND BEACH, LLC has released an illustration comparing its plans for Punalu'u to developers' plans in the past. The comparison comes ahead of next week's Windward Planning Commission meeting to decide whether to issue the group a Special Management Area permit to move forward toward approvals for its project. Project Director Norman Quon said on Monday that any SMA approval would likely come with requirements and contingencies from the county Planning Department and Planning Commission and would launch additional rounds of interaction with the community and adjustments to the plans going forward.
    The illustration states that a development plan in 1967 was set for 2,983 units. In 2006, a plan called for 1,823 units. The Black Sand Beach plan is for 230 units, far fewer that that allowed by the zoning of the property. Quon and the Black Sand Beach team also issued the following statement to kupuna and the entire Kaʻū  community:
    "We wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your interest in Punalu'u. Much like all of you in our community, Punalu'u holds a special place in our hearts as it symbolizes our home.
    "Over the past few years, our team has dedicated significant efforts to engage with many Kupuna, community members, and organizations in the Kaʻū area to gather insights and feedback crucial for the development of Punalu'u. We have also studied the development history of Punalu'u over the past 50 years and understand the current expectations of the Kaʻū community regarding Punalu'u, which has contributed to the formation of our current plan.
    "In the proposal we submitted for 2024, we have taken into account the following factors:
    "Cleaning and restoring historical structures: Returning Punalu'u to the beauty remembered by Members of the Community.
    "Low-density development: The majority of the development area is within the previously developed area.
    "Coastal protection: Coastal lands will remain permanently open to the community, ensuring that the community never has to worry about losing access to the shoreline. We also plan to collaborate with the community to protect turtles and the surrounding ecological environment.
    "Updating infrastructure affecting existing households living at Punalu’u, including Colony One and Kalana Golf Estates water and sewer needs. We intend to resolve the longstanding issues with the sewage system in Punalu'u."
     The statement also says that with the creation of the plan the team has met again with "many Kupuna, non-profit organizations, and community members, providing extensive explanations of our project plans. However, we understand that there may still be many who are unfamiliar with our plans. Our team welcomes the community to provide us with your valuable feedback. We will be more than happy to address any questions. Email norman@kaunui.com."

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A POSTING ON KAʻŪ BULLETIN BOARD SAYS THE COUNTY ROAD WOULD BE BLOCKED OFF AT PUNALU'U BLACK SAND BEACH in the plan before the Windward Planning Commission that seeks a Special Management Area permit approval. The post says,"Picture shows county road to beach eliminated! Punalu'u now Waikoloa and Kona style shoreline, park way up, pay to park and walk through the development. Not Pono, that they try to sneak through without talking to community. This is not the rural, country style we love! Punalu'u is the most accessible, natural and untouched beach left on this island. Country is why we live Ka'u. Punalu'i is the PIKO of Ka'u.... Time to step up and speak up or lose it! Come represent at March 7th meeting. Every Voice counts - Your voice, counts!"

    Black Sand Beach, LLC, which applied for the SMA, responded that the access to the beach remains on the county road and that it is up to the county and community as to where and whether to limit access to the county road in the beach area. The legal county road goes through the black sand beach to the county park area but the county stopped its use years ago and has allowed the sand to cover it. Years ago, the sand was cleared to allow tour buses and other traffic to go along the coast there. 
    Black Sand Beach released this response to the posting that the road would be closed: 
    "Black Sand Beach understands what Punalu’u means to the Kaʻū Community and shares its concerns regarding beach access. First, because the road is owned by the county, no private owner can eliminate it. However, on the plans it may not be visible because of the sand covering the road. 
   "Parking has always been a problem accessing the beach. To help ease the parking situation, Black Sand Beach will make its parking lot available for beach goers. It is proposed that local residents with a Hawai'i ID be allowed to park free at the parking lot, and all out-of-state visitors and tourists be charged a fee for parking. 
    "We also understand the delicate nature of Black Sand Beach and the need to protect this valuable resource. As part of its Shoreline Management Plan, Black Sand Beach would like to work hand-in-hand with the local community to determine the usage of the beach by commercial tours and FIT tourists. From this study, a carrying capacity of the beach can be established, an educational program can be created, then rules and regulations for usage of the beach can be established."
This illustration shows planning for the area around Punalu'u Black Sand Beach and pond, as proposed by Black Sand Beach,
LLC for a Special Management Area permit before the Windward Planning Commission. Black Sand Beach issued
a statement saying its team does not propose blocking the county road and that the county and community determine
how much of the county road to limit near the shoreline. Illustration from Black Sand Beach, LLC

ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT COMMISSION FOR THE ISLAND will meet on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Kona, with a zoom link at https://www.zoomgov.com/j/16031058165. Meeting ID: 160 3105 .
    To be reviewed are Solid Waste Division Projects and Updates regarding Recycling, Greenwaste, and Landfill Diversion; Solid Waste Operational Study; and Wastewater Division Projects and Updates: Pāhala and Nā‘ālehu Large Capacity Cesspool Closure projects. 
   The commissioner for Kaʻū is Lee McIntosh.
    The in-person location is Community Meeting Hale (Building G) of the West Hawai‘i Civic Center, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy, Kailua-Kona.

TISSUE CULTURE OF COFFEE IS THE U.H. PRESENTATION ON TUESDAY AT NOON. The leader of the online event is Steve Starnes from UH-Hilo. The zoom session is sponsored by University of Hawai'i College of Tropical Agriculture. Get the Zoom link at www.hawaiicoffeed.com/coffeewebinars or contact Matt Miyahara at 808-322-0164.