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Thursday, March 07, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs March 7, 2024

The county building in Hilo, overflowing with people, mostly there to show opposition for
development at Punalu‘u at Thursday's public hearing. Photo from Kaʻū Bulletin Board

PUNALU‘U DEVELOPMENT PUBLIC HEARING WILL EXTEND TO ANOTHER TIME TO BE ANNOUNCED, following a full day on Thursday of mainly opposition testimony. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to extend the hearing and to consider holding it in Kaʻū on a weekend, as suggested by several of those who testified, to avoid people having to take off from work. 
    The question is whether to issue a Special Management Area permit for commercial development near the black sand beach, 225 accommodations inland and creation of a wellness center, along with resurrection of the old golf course, Aspen Center and other abandoned facilities on the property. The land is all within the Special Management Area, which is designed to protect the coast. It is in need of repair of its sewage, water and fire hydrant systems, which developers promise to repair.
     The Windward Planning Commission meeting on granting a Special Management Area permit to Black Sand Beach, LLC started at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. after 82 people spoke with more than 50 still waiting to testify. An online petition with 10,000 in opposition was presented to the Planning Commission. Of those who testified at the hearing, 74 were in opposition while eight supported the development.
    Written testimony is posted on the Planning Commission website. at https://records.hawaiicounty.gov/WebLink/1/fol/126393/Row1.aspx?dbid=1&startid=126393&row=1
People listened to testimony outside as they waited to give their
own, with 82 speaking and more than 50 still waiting. The meeting
will be continued on another date. Photo from Kaʻū Bulletin Board
   See the entire video of the public hearing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfA6VoyabyE&t=37s.
    Lori Lee Lorenzo, who grew up in Pāhala and is well known in rodeo, said she will graduate from Hawai‘i Community College in May with a Degree in Tropical Ecosystems and Forestry Management with an Academic Certificate in Sustainability. She said, "Kaʻū is one of the last undeveloped districts on this island and in the State of Hawai‘i. We have a peaceful rural community surrounded by Agriculture and Conservation lands, and we wish to keep it this way. Building a resort would make this area overcrowded and would disturb our native species and destroy many of our natural resources and the natural beauty of this landscape. 
    "One of our most important natural resources is fresh water. We are in danger of losing much of our watershed system due to Rapid Ohia Death and I don't feel we have the water needed to support this type of large resort development. We need to protect the water that we do have for the local residents, and for the farmers and ranchers that are working hard to make our island more self-sustainable. 
    "People who want to work in hotels or resorts have many job opportunities in the area that are already developed. We need to save and take care of our precious natural resources and our pristine undeveloped ‘Āina. Keep Kaʻū Country."
        Katherine Okamura, who works full-time for the county and part-time at the Black Sand Beach lei stand, wrote, "I was born and raised in Kaʻū and currently live in Pāhala. I oppose any kind of development down at Black Sand Beach. I live in Kaʻū because I love the country lifestyle. Building a resort will only bring more people to our already overcrowded beach. You have an obligation to follow the Kaʻū Community Development Plan for the sake of the residents of Kaʻū."
People filled the County Council chambers in Hilo on Thursday to 
testify, mostly in opposition of development at Punalu‘u.
Photo from Kaʻū Bulletin Board
    Demetrius Oliveira, of Pāhala, is a well-known musician who has provided music and often met with Black Sand Beach, LLC representatives. He supported the development and wrote, "This project holds the potential to rejuvenate Kaʻū, offering opportunities for its residents and fostering much-needed employment." He also said, "Recognizing the delicate balance between economic advancement and culturally significant sites of Punalu‘u exemplifies commendable stewardship, a rarity in past land development endeavors. Furthermore, their exceptional receptiveness to community feedback demonstrated through meticulous plan adjustments, merits acknowledgement."
    Laura Wong of Nāʻālehu testified, "I object to the development of Punalu‘u as described by landholder Eva Liu and her developer partners.
     "I demand that the county hold another meeting on a Saturday or a Sunday to allow the working people the opportunity to attend the meeting. Furthermore said meeting should be held in Kaʻū at Pāhala or Nā‘ālehu. I demand an updated shoreline certification to reflect the massive tidal actions of the past 36 months on the Kaʻū coastline. I demand a new shoreline certification be made prior to considering any additional building within one mile of the newly aligned coastline. 
    "I strongly object to any allowances for any building to occur in designated special use management coastline of the District of  Kaʻū. I do not support this development at Punalu'u."
     See more testimony in upcoming Ka'u News Briefs.

Kumano I Ke Ala in Waimea Canyon on Kaua‘i hosted Kaʻū Future Farmers during the recent Future Farmers of America state convention. The students volunteered to clean the lo‘i where kalo, taro, is grown. Photo from Kumano I Ke Ala

KAʻŪ FUTURE FARMERS HELPED CARE FOR KALO GROWING IN WAIMEA CANYON and competed in Future Farmers of America events on Kaua‘i last weekend during the state convention.They
Vladimir Fedoruk, Aljshae Barrios and Ezekiel
Kaawa-Kamimura took first in Chapter Records.
Photo from Kaʻū FFA
also met with Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami. 
    They volunteered to clean the lo‘i - the taro patch where kalo is grown under the guidance of Kumano Ike Ala, an organization dedicated to sustainability and food sovereignty.      
   FFA reporter Alajshae Barrios reported that 12 students from Kaʻū attended the State Convention at Kapa‘a Kaua‘i. They were supervised by Kaweni Ibarra, Jesse Denny, and Aunty Cynthia.
   FFA members participated in competitions called the Creed, Educational Exhibit, Floriculture, Chapter Records, Essay, and Quiz. Sherwin Agpaoa won third place in the Creed. Alajshae Barrios, Vladimir Fedoruk, and Ezekiel Kaawa-Kamimura won first place in Chapter Records. 
    Barrios reported: "On the first day of our arrival our chapter headed to Waimea, Kaua‘i to volunteer to help clean the lo‘i with Kumano Ike Ala, It was truly an amazing experience. The following day we completed Community Service at Kapa‘a High School's garden, working as a team with other chapters from other schools and bonding with them."
     Kaʻū students who attended FAA's State Convention were: Sherwin Agpaoa, Vladimir Fedoruk, Desmond Camba, Zayden Gallano, Alajshae Barrios, Shaylie Martinez, Ezekiel Kaawa-Kamimura, Jacelyn Jara, Triton Blanco, Delisa Breithaupt, Laci Ah-Yee, and Dreana Vierra- Mukini.

 Kaʻū FFA students and leaders at a kalo farm in Waimea Canyon on Kaua‘i. Photo from Kaʻū FFA