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Honokohau Village planning charrette fills CDP gaps

Addressing the sloping grade through this bungalow court, small homes sharing a central pedestrian greenway and featuring rear-access parking. (Photo courtesy of PlaceMakers)

Addressing the sloping grade through this bungalow court, small homes sharing a central pedestrian greenway and featuring rear-access parking. (Photo courtesy of PlaceMakers)

Karin Stanton/Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

A week-long planning exercise met with near unanimous approval, filled in some specifics on the Kona Community Development Plan and gave the community a clear idea of what can be accomplished through the process.

Partners in the collaboration included county officials and staff, residents, and PlaceMakers, an Alabama-based design and planning consulting firm.

PlaceMakers was contracted by the county to tweak, twist and fine-tune the CDP.

Principal planner Howard Blackson said Kona is well ahead of the national curve when it comes to planning neighborhoods around transit-oriented design rather than ‘pods’ specific only to residential, commercial or office uses.

While many communities across the mainland still haven’t brought a focus to their vision, Kona knows exactly what it wants to look like, he said.

The illustrative plan demonstrates how, in accordance with the regulating plan, the property might build out. (Photo courtesy of PlaceMakers)

The illustrative plan demonstrates how, in accordance with the regulating plan, the property might build out. (Photo courtesy of PlaceMakers)

A document like a CDP is ‘desperately needed’ to properly guide growth, Blackson said, and Kona now is primed to direct its own vision.

PlaceMakers merely came in at the end to help polish Kona’s ‘code of character,’ Blackson said, by calibrating, or refining, the CDP specific to the district.

“The No. 1 thing they are going to leave us with is a calibrated code,” said Nancy Pissichio, who has been involved in the CDP process since it began in 2005. “It’s critical to have this level of expertise to come in and show us how it’s done. We needed that confidence.”

Margaret Masunaga, county deputy planning director, said the exercise was valuable to the county planning staff.

“It’s so exciting to see this in terms of the potential to plan Kona in a cohesive way using the best planners around,” she said. “We’re trying to make planning easier for developers using models that have worked in other places around the country, but customizing for us, the people who live here in Kona.”

There remained some skepticism, as one attendee noted the result really is just another piece of paper and the design scheme is in no way binding. Questions also remain over whether this exercise will carry over into future developer plans and how the county handles them.

“If I have my way, yes, absolutely,” Masunaga said.

Ken Melrose, chairman of the KCDP action committee, said he was pleased to see so many residents – including local architects and planners – join in the open sessions. He also praised Mayor Billy Kenoi’s commitment to implementing the community’s vision.

“What has happened since the CDP (was adopted by the County Council in September 2008) is incredible. This is a first step in a new way of planning and developing,” he said. “This charrette challenged the assumptions and filled in a lot of the technical details.”

Melrose said he was especially pleased to see the community continue its involvement in the CDP.

“The amazing part was the engagement of everybody, bringing all that local knowledge into the process,” he said. “Their input was primarily about the sense of place.”

The intent of the CDP was to focus growth in Kona to the north, closer to job centers such as the two industrial areas and Kohala hotels, Melrose said.

Members of the PlaceMakers consulting team met earlier Tuesday with Kenoi, who repeated his support for the project, and gave a final presentation in the evening at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa.

Much of the information from the charrette is detailed on the Web site: honokohauvillage.com

PlaceMakers team members Susan Henderson and Scott Doyon met Tuesday morning with (from left) Wally Lau, Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, Steve Arnett, Bobby Command, and Mayor Billy Kenoi. (Hawaii 24/7 photo courtesy of Margaret Masunaga)

PlaceMakers team members Susan Henderson and Scott Doyon met Tuesday morning with (from left) Wally Lau, Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, Steve Arnett, Bobby Command, and Mayor Billy Kenoi. (Hawaii 24/7 photo courtesy of Margaret Masunaga)

Among those who joined in the week-long charrette were representatives from PlaceMakers, county Planning Department and Department of Public Works, and Kona CDP Steering and Action Committees. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Among those who joined in the week-long charrette were representatives from PlaceMakers, county Planning Department and Department of Public Works, and Kona CDP Steering and Action Committees. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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