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Monday, May 06, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs May 6, 2024

A special public hearing on the proposed development at Punalu'u was held Monday but Windward Planning Commission
 is unable to vote until two contested cases are heard on the matter and a recommendation made by a hearing officer.
Photo from YouTube of the meeting

WINDWARD PLANNING COMMISSION'S VOTE ON APPROVING THE BLACK SAND BEACH, LLC DEVELOPMENT will be delayed until mediation or a contested case hearing is completed. See testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTfM1FCZxW4
    Following hours of public testimony on Monday when most speakers opposed the development, Windward Planning Commission voted to accept two contested cases, which take discussion on the proposed development at Punalu'u to mediation between the developers and the community groups. If mediation doesn't work, the process will enter a court like contested case process with a hearing officer. The hearing officer provides a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which is tasked with taking the hearing officer's and planning director's recommendations into consideration along with testimony and advice from the Planning Commission. Planning Commission voted on Monday to process the two contested cases in concert.
    The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve the contested case requested by community group 'Iewe Hanau o Ka 'Āina and its attorney David Kimo Frankel. In its petition addressing Punalu'u, 'Iewe Hanau o Ka 'Āina was described as "an unincorporated hui of Kaʻū residents who desire to protect the cultural practices, natural resources, and stunning beauty of Punalu'u. The protection of the iwi and honu are of great importance. Members of 'Iewe Hanao o Ka 'Āina walk along the Punalu'u coastline, swim at Punalu'u Beach, observe marine life, provide stewardship of the land, work to protect the honu that live in the area, gather marine life, participate in cultural protocol, and respect the burials in the area. 'Iewe Hanau o Ka 'Āina includes Native Hawaiians with deep cultural connections to Punalu'u. The interests of 'Iewe Hanau o Ka 'Āina and its members would be adversely affected by the proposed project in numerous ways."
    The petition contends that increasing the density of people in area would jeopardize the coastal water quality and further desecrate burials on the land at Punalu'u. It says the group's "constitutionally protected cultural practices would be jeopardized," and that the group has "a right to a clean and healthful environment."

Majority of testimonies submitted on Monday opposed the plan by Black Sand Beach, LLC
Black Sand Beach, LLC. See testimony: 
    Windward Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve the contested case requested by the Center for Biological Diversity, its members including the 'ohana of Elsa Kalanikauleleiaiwi Dedman, which owns land adjacent to the Black Sand Beach, LLC project.
    The organization and its Hawai'i Director and staff attorney Maxx Phillips stated that its "Hawai'i Program focuses specifically on conserving ecosystems and seeks to ensure that imperiled species are properly protected from destructive practices across our pae'aina. Through sciences, policy and environmental law, the Center is actively involved i species and habitat protection issues throughout Hawai'i, including efforts related to Hawai'i's imperiled pland and animal species, such as the endangered hawksbill and threatened green sea turtles, and effective implementation of Federal, State, and County laws. The Center's members hav legally protected interests in the survival and recovery of endangered and threatened species and habitats they depend on. The Center's members derive scientific, recreational, cultural religious, conservation, spiritual, subsistence, educational, and aesthetic benefits form the myriad of native plants' and animals' existence in the wild of Punalu'u."
    The petition contends that the Black Sand Beach, LLC project would injure the species, habitat and environment of Punalu'u." The petition quotes section of the Hawai'i State Constitution, as approved in 1978, which said that "Each person has the right to a clean and healthful environment defined by laws relating to environmental quality, including control of pollution and conservation, protection and enhancement of natural resources. Any person may enforce the right against any party, public or private, through appropriate legal proceedings..."
    The Commission informed the petitioners that they will be contacted within about a week to set up the contested case proceedings.
The attorney for Black Sand Beach, LLC, Lincoln Ashida, filed an objection against the acceptance of both petitions. He also argued against a third contested case petitioned by condo owners at Punalu'u. The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the petition but needed four votes for approval, under its rules.
See the hours of testimony and contested case procedure at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTfM1FCZxW4

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