Karin Stanton/Hawaii247 Contributing Editor
A rezoning request from Palamanui developers is up before the County Council at its Wednesday, Oct. 7 meeting in Kona.
The developers had asked for the consideration due to the faltering economy, but remain committed to getting started on a college campus adjacent to the 725-acre commercial and residential complex.
Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford has introduced 41 pages of amendments to that rezoning request. Her input includes correcting minor typos, but also calls for the developers to adhere to new timelines.
Palamanui Global Holdings is asking to delay construction of a mauka-makai connector road and public park, while moving ahead with construction of two state-of-the-art, energy efficient buildings for Hawaii Community College.
“This is the biggest, most complicate project I’ve seen since I’ve been on the council,” Ford said. “I made these amendments to protect Kona, to define the public benefits and put the timelines in this contract, so it’s very clear what everybody has to do.”
Ford said she recognizes the challenges Palamanui is facing and has agreed to extend the original five-year zoning period to nine years, but insists the community gets its due.
Ford explained her amendments at a public meeting last week attended by about three dozen residents who appeared to mostly share her concerns.
“A time extension is not unreasonable with the current economic climate,” Ford said. “It’s a matter of tying the dates down.”
Top priority, Ford said, is the university campus, which includes two buildings, related infrastructure and roads connecting from Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Kaiminani Drive.
“Everybody is in favor of getting our university built. This is where we’ve got to start,” she said. “We’ve got to give them more time, but the university must be done by Nov. 1, 2012.”
At the meeting, Ford said she was not contesting Palamanui using 29 acres within the planned business park to allow for wholesale and distribution use, or the request to drop the Queen Kaahumanu Highway setback from 1,500 feet to 800 feet.
“I have no problem with that,” she said. “I’m not objecting to that change.”
However, Ford said she wanted to ensure the affordable housing contributions are built within the footprint of the development.
Roger Harris, Palamanui project planner, said the developer can work with most of the amendments and is committed to spending $23 million to kick start the university campus.
However, the developer cannot commit more initial outlay on roads, affordable housing and a regulation major league baseball field in the 20-acre community park.
“It’s essentially up to the university to tell us when to start building,” he said. “We are going to build the two ball parks. We will build the affordable housing.”
Harris said the developer has an issue with building out the mauka-makai connector road within Ford’s timeline.
“That doesn’t work. That’s a problem with the timing, the way it’s written,” he said. “I can’t agree with it.”
Ford said she has had to tweak some of the park terms in her amendment.
For example, she originally included a regulation major league baseball field and practice field, which could be rented out to a Korean team for off-season training.
“That’s out now,” she said. “But, in the future, a field like that could produce revenue for the county. We would rent it out for two months and it would be for the community’s use the other 10 months. Also, a major league team would need at least 130 hotel rooms for those two months. So it definitely would be a benefit.”
The bills – No. 136 and No. 137 – are scheduled to be heard on first reading at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Keauhou Sheraton Bay Resort and Spa.
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