POSTED: 20 Novemberr 2004 - 3:00pm HST

Rise of the Dead

Banner to suck rubes into the scam. Could a development built on fresh lava flow in an ag district look like this?

Developer & county got caught in illegal activity

On September 9, 2003 Judge Ronald Ibarra of the Third Circuit Court on the Big Island ordered all work stopped at the Hokulia development in South Kona.  In january of 2004 the judge issued his final ruling that both the developer and the County of Hawaii had ignored the law by not obtaining a land use change from the Land Use Commission before proceeding with the super luxurious resort development.  The Hokulia project, on 1250 acres, would have 750 lots, selling between $650,000 to $2.5 million a piece, golf course, club house and all the amenities of a resort except for any farming on the 1250 acres of land classified as Agricultural Land under State Law.

Since then the developers have been joined by individual investors who bought sites at Hokulia in an appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court in order to get the project moving again. For more history go here.

Well here's an update of recent events.


Web site inflames Hokulia dispute
By Dan Nakaso published by the Honolulu Advertiser on 4 Septemebr 2004
The developers of the stalled Hokuli'a luxury development on the Big Island were willing to help create affordable housing, set up separate cultural and community foundations, speed up completion of a long overdue bypass highway, reduce density and open up a once-planned gated community — among other concessions — to get their 1,550-acre project back on track.

Hokuli'a officials took the unusual step this week of posting their "last, best and final offer" on their Web site — — after mediation broke down between the developer and project opponents.

The company says it wanted to show how far it was willing to go to appease community concerns. Opponents of the project — who won a court battle a year ago that forced the developer to halt construction — said the posting damages hope for future mediation.
In addition to previously known efforts to give up 270 acres of land for public use and promises to preserve Native Hawaiian burial sites, the final offer shows that Hokuli'a officials were willing to concede many points to environmental and Native Hawaiian groups opposing the plan.

The extra costs would have added up to "a couple of hundred million dollars," said Hokuli'a CEO John De Fries.

"The reason we are compelled to expand that investment is to get the project remobilized," De Fries said.

But Kona attorney Robert D.S. Kim, who represents four plaintiffs in the so-far successful effort to stop Hokuli'a, said posting the developers' offer damages trust.

"I still remain hopeful that we can continue to discuss settlement," Kim said. "But their action in doing this for public-relations value is in essence driving the nail in the coffin for any settlement. ... This makes it difficult to send them a letter saying I'm interested in talking about these issues if I'm worried about finding it on their Web site.

"Confidential settlement discussions should not be released to the public. When people try to gain advantage in releasing their side of what was discussed, it causes a chilling effect. If there were ever any opportunities to settle down the road, nobody is going to be willing to talk."

In July, a mediator declared an impasse in settlement negotiations, which cleared the way for Big Island Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra last month to affirm his September 2003 ruling to halt work on Hokuli'a.

On Tuesday, Ibarra will consider two more motions asking him to reconsider. If Ibarra denies the motions, De Fries said his side will appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Alan Murakami, an attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, who represents Hokuli'a opponent Protect Keopuka Ohana, said the posting invites "statements and counter statements about what may or may not be said."

"What is really happening is that they are diverting attention from irresponsible developments of this sort, which have caused major cultural damage to irreplaceable historic properties, including ancient Hawaiian burial sites that have been disturbed from centuries of resting in peace.

"This kind of tactic diverts attention from many, many major issues, such as why this construction should ever have started and the illegal use of land under state land use law ... while detrimentally and seriously impacting cultural resources that Hawaiians find very important."

Since posting Hokuli'a's last offer, De Fries said he has received at least 100 e-mails and 50 phone calls — all supportive.

De Fries said many people said they had no idea that Hokuli'a officials were to go so far.

"The responses have been so far unanimous in support," De Fries said. "People now realize the amount of work that went into our offer."


Court asked to speed up Hokulia
by Tiffany Edwards published in West Hawaii Today on 11 November 2004
HILO -- The Hawaii County Council passing legislation Wednesday asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to expedite its hearing of the Hokulia appeal.

Draft 2 of Resolution 269-04 -- introduced by Kohala Councilman Leningrad Elarionoff -- passed 5-2, with North Kona Councilman Curtis Tyler and Bob Jacobson, representing Puna, Ka'u and South Kona, casting the dissenting votes. Gary Safarik, of Puna, and Joe Reynolds, of South Kona where the Hokulia development lies, were absent when the votes were cast.

Elarionoff said he asked the Legislative Auditor's Office to draft the legislation since, as planning committee chair, he is trying to "tie up loose ends" on whatever he can before new council members take office in December.

"The sooner Hokulia is settled, the sooner we can get a clear vision as to the direction of the General Plan," said Elarionoff, who unsuccessfully tried to get a second draft of the General Plan passed before leaving office.

Tyler said he appreciated Elarionoff's efforts in bringing the Hokulia issue forward and for wanting the appeal process to be expedited. However, Tyler noted that he has taken issue with the development since it was first pitched to council members in 1996, and the resolution before council members Wednesday contained statements he not only couldn't agree with but believed to be "fundamentally flawed."
Jacobson said he didn't believe telling the Supreme Court judges to expedite their review of the appeal would be advantageous to the county, rather it "may be antagonizing the court."

The resolution states that the Hawaii County Council "does not presume to speak with authority on matters pertaining to the lawsuit, but does wish, in the spirit of plain and genial communication to express four basic concerns as they relate to our request for the lawsuit, on appeal, to be heard by the Supreme Court on an expedited basis."
Those concerns are:

"County officials require actionable clarity in statutes relating to land use and the financing of public infrastructure; Development approvals and timelines require genuine conclusiveness, not havoc, uncertainty and liability; The level of agricultural use in agricultural subdivisions should be defined by the state Legislature and/or county councils; There comes at time when arguments must yield reason and good-natured resolution."

The County of Hawaii has appealed to the Supreme Court asking the High Court to overturn Third Circuit Court judge Ronald Ibarra's decision that Hokulia is an illegal use of agricultural land.