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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Kealia plots for sale despite county fight

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua‘i Bureau

KEALIA, Kaua'i — The developer of a luxury agricultural condominium project overlooking the ocean at Kealia is selling the million-dollar lots, even as it continues to battle the county over the donation of a beachfront park.

Kealia Plantation, developer of the Kealia Kai project, offered the county more land than is required by law, but it wants controls placed on the use of some of the donated property.

While the subdivision has been approved, one of its requirements — the donation of coastal land —has not yet been fulfilled. County Council members say they're not sure some of Kealia Plantation's conditions are appropriate, or even legal.

The developer bought the 6,000-acre Kealia ahupua'a from Lihu'e Plantation and immediately proposed a luxury agricultural condominium project, with 28 lots of five to 38 acres.

Kealia Plantation offered the county three miles of coastline land in return for project approval. The land includes seven acres backing Kealia Beach, which was conveyed without conditions.

The developer also offered a 52-acre coastline strip, much of which is within the conservation district and undevelopable. Several fishing and swimming sites are along that 2.5-mile section, including Kuna Bay, commonly known as Donkey Beach, a site known for its blue water, white sand and nude sunbathers.

The developer proposed consolidating five rough paths for walking from Kuhio Highway through the Kealia Kai property into one developed access, with a parking lot.

But it also proposed blocking access at night and patrolling the beach area with security guards.

Only people going fishing would have night access.

"They are permitted under the law to consolidate accesses if it is to the benefit of the public," said County Council Chairman Ron Kouchi.

He said he doubts the public interest is best served by replacing five access points that are always available with one that is available only in the daytime.

When the issue came before the council recently, many protested the conditions, and Kouchi said a majority of the council believes access on the right-of-way to the beach needs to be kept open 24 hours a day. Most also said they feel the county should not authorize a private landowner to put private security officials on public property in this situation, he said.

Thomas McCloskey, a Colorado developer with property interests on Kaua'i, is interested in the property and is able to make a decision on the access issue. He is expected to arrive on Kaua'i this week to seek some resolution.

A representative of McCloskey, John O'Carroll, told the council the owners might simply give up the subdivision if they are not pleased with the conditions.

Kouchi said that doesn't mean the public would lose access to the property.

"If they decide not to go forward with the subdivision, we still need to have the one improved access all the way to the beach, or, it would appear, for the five walking accesses to be restored," Kouchi said.

While the issue is being debated, the developer is marketing the Kealia Kai lots at $1.4 million apiece and more.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808)245-3074.