I was actually in the room when it happened, and could not believe what I was witnessing. In fact, I said that out loud at the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) hearing held on October 28, 2022.
There was a moment when I attempted to interject saying, “I can’t believe members of the Board are going to vote to renew permits allowing the use of public lands to an entity that did not exist.”
However, the Chair of the Board indicated my comment was out of order and politely but directly said I should SUASD (virtually speaking).
So I did. After-all, I was just a member of the public – one of many who had submitted testimony which the BLNR staff admitted on record they had not read.
To her credit, Kauai Board Member Karen Ono did voice concerns and raised important questions. She and other Board members initially objected to the approval without further information, but under the repeated urging of the Chair and BLNR staff – the permits were approved subject to a 6 month review.
They openly admitted they didn’t know who they were granting the permits to and key staffers and decision makers hadn’t read the testimony. No one had actually inspected the 3 parcels, and there was no meaningful discussion at all with regards to environmental impacts.
Yet, they voted anyway to grant the permits and in the process exempted the action from HRS 343 which requires an environmental review.
You can’t make this stuff up.
The BLNR has a fiduciary constitutional duty to protect and preserve public trust resources including Wailuanui lands, and to preserve and protect the exercise of Kanaka Maoli traditional and customary rights.
Yet, they approved permits for the use of public lands to Coco Palms Ventures, LLC whose legal status in Hawaii was revoked in 2017. Coco Palms Ventures, LLC (which currently does not exist) also owes Kauai County $80,000 in back property taxes.
These lands situated in the most historical and culturally significant area on the entire island of Kauai – Wailuanuiahoʻāno.
All 3 parcels are legally considered “ceded lands” and under the 1959 Admissions Act are intended to benefit Native Hawaiians. One of the parcels is on the shoreline, and all are part of the planned Coco Palms Hotel development.
This is why I Ola Wailuanui, a community group of which I am a part of, had no choice but to file on November 25, 2022, a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against the BLNR, Coco Palms Ventures LLC, and various John Does.
Our hope and intent is that the Hawai’i Courts will agree that the BLNR was incorrect in its action and a complete environmental review must be conducted.
Our further hope is the Kaua’i County Planning Commission will agree and rule in support of a “Petition for Declaratory Order” that’s also been filed by various community groups or, at a minimum, require the developers to submit an Environmental Impact Statement before ruling on the Petition or allowing the developers to proceed.
This action essentially states there’s been no substantial progress in fulfilling the County permits, too much time has passed, and certain permits have effectively lapsed. Under the law the developers must thus reapply for new permits.
At the end of the day, sometime in late January, the Planning Commission will decide whether they believe substantial progress has been made or not, and whether or not the law will be followed.
I believe the vast majority of Kaua’i residents, after 30 years of waiting, 30 years of broken promises, and 30 years of desecration, have come to the same two conclusions I have.
A hotel is no longer wanted, needed, nor suitable for these lands.
State and County agencies must enforce the law, fulfill their public trust duties, and serve the long term best interests of the community.
For those interested in learning more about an alternate community based vision for these lands, visit https://www.wailuanui.org/
3 things you can do now to help
1) Make a pledge or promise of a future contribution! This pledge is contingent upon I OLA WAILUA NUI raising the total amount of funding needed to purchase the property (currently estimated at $22,000,000). – Request a “pledge form” via email firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Contribute now online or via the mail to support existing administration and legal expenses. No contribution is too small, all are welcome and critically important. https://www.wailuanui.org/donate
3) Request an in-person or zoom meeting to learn more about this incredible project. For individuals, organizations, or small groups who are considering a major gift – email email@example.com