Testimony to Kauaʻi Planning Commission – Coco Palms Hotel development Petition for Declaratory Order

Testimony to Kauaʻi Planning Commission: SUPPORT for Petition for Declaratory Order

01/24/2023
Coco Palms Hotel Development – Petition for Declaratory Order

Aloha Commissioners,

The testimony below represents my thoughts and viewpoint presented as an individual only and does not represent any organization that I may be affiliated with.

I strongly urge the Kauaʻi Planning Commission to SUPPORT the Petition for Declaratory Order and acknowledge what seems so obvious to most residents in the community – that since receiving their permits in 2015, the owners of the Coco Palms property have not made “substantial progress”.

It is a given that the attorneys for the owners will vehemently object and no doubt threaten legal action against the County should the Commission agree the law requires “substantial progress” that has not occurred, thus the permits have lapsed.

The decision and vote before the Commission must be driven by an honest answer to the question: Has “substantial progress” been made? The fear of legal action by high-priced attorneys whose job is to threaten, cajole, and obfuscate the facts – should not be the driving factor.

Viewing the condition of the property today in the 8th year since permits were granted, it seems that development has barely even started and the progress to date is a very long way from being “substantial”.

According to law and court precedent, the permits issued in 2015 have lapsed due to the failure to make “substantial progress”.

I encourage the Commission to focus their attention and their vote, entirely on the law and the question of “substantial progress”.

The permits granted under the “Iniki Ordinance” in 2015 allowed the owners/developers to ignore important county building rules and regulations. These permits were then amended in 2018 after the “Iniki Ordinance” had already expired.

The extension of the “Iniki Ordinance” to benefit only this development is a legally flawed foundation of “special legislation” that violates the State Constitution.

In addition, the “Iniki Ordinance” does not allow the County to exempt projects from State law HRS 343 pertaining to environmental impact statements.

The proximity to the coastline, the use of State lands, and the fact that a portion of the property is registered as a historical place – are all factors that “trigger” HRS343 and an environmental review.

I Ola Wailuanui has filed a lawsuit against the BLNR and the developer asking that they in fact require an environmental review of the impact that will occur due to the construction and development of this property. The Commission is encouraged to also require such a review and/or await the determination by the courts prior to allowing further development on the property to occur.

Year after year different owners have stood next to one different developer after another and made promise after promise.

In August of 2022, Parker Enloe, the owner’s representative at the time assured the Planning Commission they would hold public meetings to hear public concerns, and respond appropriately.

To my knowledge, no such public meetings have ever been held.

Shortly after the August Planning Commission meeting, members of the public discovered a Mr. Parker Enloe who had previously pled guilty and been convicted of fraud. When confronted with the information, the Parker Enloe who testified before the Kauai Planning Commission denied that he was the same Mr. Enloe who received the conviction. There must it seems, be another Parker Enloe who resides in the same town, works in the same industry, and has the same friends and associates who wrote the judge letters on his behalf.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced by still yet another representative of the Coco Palms that Parker Enloe would no longer be representing the owner.

The Commission is encouraged to ask this question directly to the present owner’s representative. Was their prior representative convicted of fraud?

At a more recent Planning Commission meeting, the owner’s representative suggested they were willing to entertain offers from community groups to purchase the property.

It was quickly discovered at a subsequent Zoom meeting his offer was disingenuous at best. The current owner of the property it seems has already accepted an offer to purchase the property from other investors intent on hotel development.

The present owners cannot sell the property to a third party or community group without violating their contract to the existing buyer who has the property in escrow. In addition, the existing buyer is claiming a more than doubling of real estate value even before they close escrow on the property.

The County is dealing with and accepting promises of future permit fulfillment and development timelines from the present owner (whose prior representative may or may not have been convicted of fraud) while the prospective new owners are waiting in the wings – hoping to cash in.

To further muddy the waters, there are two questions that in addition to consulting with the County Attorney, the Planning Commission should put directly and promptly before the Kauaʻi Ethics Commission.

It is the job and duty of the Ethics Commission to review and rule on these matters and is the only way to put this matter to rest.

While it’s sometimes difficult and awkward to raise such questions they do in fact need to be raised.

To be clear the questions are not about personal integrity but rather about inherent bias and public perception.

I strongly encourage the Kauaʻi Planning Commission to request a formal review and opinion from the Kauaʻi Ethics Commission on the below two issues. This matter should not require a complaint to be filed by a member of the public but rather should be a request coming from the Planning Commission itself.

The new Chair of the Kaua’i Planning Commission is also the official Kaua’i Representative for the Hawaiʻi Carpenters Union. The union and its members will clearly receive a direct financial benefit should the Coco Palms Development move forward.

In addition, the current Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, prior to being appointed to the Planning Commission, had a real estate listing agreement to sell Coco Palms Resort condominium units then being proposed by a previous unsuccessful Coco Palms developer.

It’s unclear whether that developer retains a financial interest in the property, and it’s also unclear whether this matter has been previously disclosed.

There are many moving parts, but the fundamental question is one of law.

Has there been “substantial progress”? Most residents I believe would say without hesitation, there has not been anything close to that.

Though the weeds and underbrush have recently been cleared, and what looks like a dust screen is being erected – pulling the weeds, cutting the grass, and putting up a fence – just days before this hearing does not constitute “substantial progress”.

I encourage the Commission to support the Petition for Declaratory Order and to immediately seek a ruling by the Kauaʻi Ethics Commission prior to any formal vote.

Gary Hooser
Wailua Homesteads
Kauaʻi Hawaiʻi

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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