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Friday, March 01, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Feb. 29, 2024

A welcome center, tour bus drop off and food and retail are planned near Black Sand Beach pond, with hearing March 7.
Photo from SMA application

COUNTY PLANNING DIRECTOR ZENDO KERN HAS RECOMMENDED APPROVAL OF THE BLACK SAND BEACH, LLC SPECIAL MANAGEMENT AREA PERMIT for accommodations and other development at Punalu'u. He noted that the recommendation could change after the public hearing. The proposed development is set to go to public hearing on Thursday, March 7 at Hilo County Council Chambers and on Zoom. 
    The Planning Director's positive recommendation comes with many contingencies and requirements. His entire report can be read in County Department of Planning files at https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/WebLink/1/doc/128725/Page1.aspx. Here is the first installment of his findings:
   Upon careful review of the applicant's request against the guidelines for granting of a Special Management Area Use Permit, the Planning Director recommends that this request to develop 225 residential and short stay units, village and wellness center, retail uses, rehabilitation and use of golf courses, and dedication of a portion of coastline as a conservation area on an approximately 147-acre portion of a larger 434- acre project site within the Special Management Area be approved by the Planning Commission. 
    Since this recommendation is made without the benefit of public testimony, the Director reserves the right to modify and/ or alter this recommendation based upon additional information presented at the public hearing.
    This approval recommendation is based on the following:
    The applicant requests a Special Management Area Use Permit to
develop the project area, named
5,000 in the mail and 2,500 on the streets

Punalu' u Village, which is proposed as a residential and commercial development consisting of approximately 225 residential and short-stay units, a village and wellness center, rehabilitation of the existing golf course, tennis facilities, infrastructure, and the dedication of approximately 30 acres along the project sites coastline as a conservation/preservation area.
    The grounds for approving development within the Special Management Area are based
on HRS, Chapter 205A-26(2) ( Special Management Area guidelines) and Rule 9- 11( e) of
the Planning Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure. Planning Commission Rule 9-11( e) states that the Authority ( Planning Commission) may permit the proposed
development only upon finding that:
    1. The development will not have any substantial adverse environmental or ecological
effect except as such adverse effect is minimized to the extent practicable and is clearly outweighed by public health, safety or compelling public interest;
    2. The development is consistent with the objectives and policies and the Special Management Area guidelines as provided by Chapter 205A, HRS;
    3. The development is consistent with the General Plan, Community Plan, Zoning Code
and other applicable ordinances;
    4. The development will, to the extent feasible, reasonably protect native Hawaiian rights if they are found to exist, including specific factual findings regarding:
    a. The identity and scope of valued cultural historical or natural resources in the petition area, including the extent to which traditional and customary native Hawaiian rights are exercised in the petition area;
    b. The extent to which those resources including traditional and customary native Hawaiian rights, will be affected or impaired by the proposed action; and
    c. The feasible action, if any, to be taken by the Authority to reasonably protect any valued cultural, historical or natural resources including any existing traditional and customary native Hawaii rights.
    In review of the SMA guidelines as listed under HRS 205A-26( 2)( A), the proposed development will not have any substantial adverse environmental or ecological effect, except as such adverse effect is minimized to the extent practicable and clearly outweighed by public health, safety, or compelling public interest. 
A public hearing will be held Thursday, March 7 on development at Punalu'u. See Black Sand Beach, LLC plans for Punalu'u and background reports at https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/1/doc/127617/Page1.aspx. See Kaʻū Community Development Plan at https://www.planning.hawaiicounty.gov/general-plan-community-planning/cdp/kau.
Image from Kaʻū Community Development Plan

    In considering the significance of potential environmental effects, the Director shall consider the sum of those effects that adversely affect the quality of the environment and shall evaluate the overall and cumulative effects of the action on the Special Management Area. Such adverse effects shall include, but not be limited to, the potential cumulative impact of individual developments, each one of which taken in itself might not have a substantial adverse effect and eliminate planning options.
    The proposed project did not meet the criteria in State law for the requirement of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under Hawaii Revised Statutes ( HRS) Ch. 343- 5, however, the applicant chose to update both the Cultural Impact Assessment ( CIA) and the Archaeological Impact Assessment ( AIS) in order to ensure those resources were preserved and protected in light of this new proposed development project. The proposed project, Punalu' u Village, provides an opportunity to properly manage, repair, and enhance this area after years of neglect. 
Learn about Special Management Area
permits at https://planning.hawaii.gov
    This proposed project does represent a significant impact on the area, and coastal resources, however,
the project aims to improve the resources and mitigate impacts to this area. Facility management is necessary to ensure the continued protection of environmental, cultural, and historical resources. Staff notes that the most sensitive area, those that have not been heavily impacted by previous land use activities, is the coastal portion of the project area.
    The applicant intends to place a large portion of the coastal area into a preserve or other protection status to maintain those resources at the shoreline. The project is utilizing the designated zoning of the site, and as such will be in-line with the existing entitlements related to zoning and appropriate land uses, as well as re- constructing and repairing existing structures and infrastructure to minimize further impacts to the site and surrounding area. The proposed project, as designed, will not generate any adverseeffects that cannot be mitigated with proper Best Management Practices ( BMP), or are lands that are already impacted by previous land work including significant grading and grubbing. The applicant intends to implement appropriate mitigation in relation to viewplanes, pedestrian access, and community character to ensure the varied and large site is viable for both the existing community, and visitors to the area. 
    Staff believes that the past poor management of the area has led to a decline of natural resources, and this project aims to repair some of the damage while setting up the project site and surrounding area into a more comprehensive management regime.
    In review of the SMA guidelines as listed under HRS 205A, the proposed development is consistent with the objectives and policies as provided by Chapter 205A, HRS, and Special Management Area guidelines contained in Rule No. 9 of the Planning Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure.

COMMUNITY MEETINGS ARE PLANNED AROUND THE UPCOMING DECISIONS to be made regarding Punalu'u. A Save Punalu'u meeting sign waving rally was set for Saturday, March 2 at Punalu'u Pavilion at 10 a.m. Kaʻū Advisory Council announced a meeting on March 3 to discuss concerns about Punaluʻu and Kaʻū at Pāhala Community Center at 1 p.m. A zoom event at Kaloki's in Ocean View is sponsored by Kaʻū Radio to participate and watch the Punalu'u public hearing at 9 a.m. on March 7. Attendees at the Kaʻū Community Development Plan Action Committee meeting in late February asked the group to become more involved in the future of Punalu'u.