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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 4:18 p.m., Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big Island judge reverses stand, restarts Hokuli'a

Advertiser Big Island Bureau

KEALAKEKUA, Hawai'i — Kona Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra restarted the controversial 1,550-acre Hokuli'a luxury home project and the Mamalahoa Bypass road yesterday, reversing much of his own 2003 ruling that stopped the controversial project.

Ibarra's approval was required to complete an out-of-court settlement, including a package of community benefits pledged by the developer that Hokuli'a chief executive officer John De Fries estimated is worth more than $100 million.

"The war is over," said Jim Medeiros Sr., chief executive officer of Protect Keopuka 'Ohana, which joined in the lawsuit challenging the Hokuli'a.

"This is what I think from the very beginning we all hoped and prayed for," said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, who attended yesterday's hearing in Keakakekua. Kim said he knows the settlement was difficult for some of the players in the case to accept, and "I am so appreciative of them for working it out."

The Hokuli'a development by some estimates is worth more than $1 billion. De Fries declined to estimate how much the lawsuit cost the developer in legal fees or other costs since all work on the development stopped 30 months ago, but said the losses were "painful."

"In order to get to where we got to today, all parties had to let go of the past, and if I were to drag that number around, and held on to those kind of feelings, we'd never get there," De Fries said.