Hokulia construction ban upheld by judge
KEALAKEKUA, Hawai'i A state judge yesterday upheld his decision to halt construction of the 1,550-acre South Kona luxury subdivision Hokulia.
Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra denied motions submitted by developers 1250 Oceanside Partners and Hawai'i County to reopen the Hokulia case for a new trial.
Construction was shut down a year ago this week after Ibarra found the project violated state laws on agricultural land use.
"We are disappointed that the court declined to change earlier decisions which we believe were incorrect," Oceanside Chief Executive John DeFries said in a statement yesterday. "We will promptly file an appeal. We are confident that our appellate courts will reverse the trial court's decision."
Attorney Robert D.S. Kim, who is representing four Kona residents who filed the lawsuit opposing the project, said the decision will have an impact on land-use planning statewide.
"After at least 20 years, the land-use laws will be applied as written," Kim said. "What Judge Ibarra did was to find that the laws of the land must be enforced. They were always on the books, it's just that they weren't being enforced."
Kim said the state deferred to Hawai'i County to enforce the land-use laws, but Ibarra found that the county government was in conflict of interest because they had entered into a development agreement with Oceanside.
Hokulia was being built above Kealakekua Bay and included plans for 750 home lots priced from $1 million to $8 million, an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, a spa, tennis courts, a beach house and a club.
Hokulia officials have said up to 150 acres would be devoted to agriculture, with farmers leasing the land under a program managed by the homeowners association.
But the court last year found "the agricultural use and activities are insubstantial."
"We will continue to do all we can, under these unfortunate circumstances, to be contributing members of the Kona community," DeFries said. "We would like to thank the many community members who have reached out to offer us their support and encouragement."
Hokulia's attorneys on Tuesday asked Ibarra to amend his order that the developer can go to the state Land Use Commission to seek a boundary amendment to the urban district.
Kim said while Hokulia may have added jobs and boosted the local economy, area residents and farmers would have been forced to move because of skyrocketing property values.
"In a very rural agricultural area, you're going to put this gigantic urban development the impacts are far reaching," Kim said. "They'll basically devastate the agricultural nature of this area and actually urbanize it.
"If we wanted to develop every place, we could do it, but what would be left? There has to be a balance. People are coming to Hawai'i for what we have. Once you make it L.A., they're going to go" somwhere else.