Wednesday, February 11, 2009


WORST IN SHOW: There are Kaua`i developers and then there are Kaua`i developers.

Though they generally run the gamut from scum-sucking bottom-feeders to land-raping robber-barons occasionally they do their dirty deeds in such a dastardly, deceitfull, teeth-gnashing manner as to leave an irremovable toxic slug trail in their aftermath.

And that’s if the project goes forward- sometimes, even as we wish “good riddance to bad rubbish”, a failed con job can cause even more havoc than having to deal with paying for the needed infrastructure these grifters have managed to avoid paying for up front.

And so it was that the developers who tried to pull a fast one at Coco Palms managed to steal the nose off the faces of some equally greedy locally-based douche-bags who thought they were gonna get rich and instead got screwed.

Yesterday one of the Coco Palms developers actually dared to show his face at the planning commission meeting and ask for an extension to develop the mess they left us with even though, through their scam, we were left still holding the same bag containing the rat infested eyesore we began with.

The true story of their misdeeds has gotten little play and when we tried to sum it up last July we sort of buried it in the middle of three short pieces that day.

At the time we were spurred to report on some of the research we had done, after an article appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser about how a new developer might be seeking to take over the project.

Since then that plan apparently has died a much-desirable death but on July 3 last year we wrote:

Also in the news today is a report of a threat by whale-artist-turned-developer Wyland to buy and re-establish Coco Palms as a hotel despite recent moves to form a partnership and turn the former royal grounds into a Hawaiian cultural park and preserve the location in perpetuity (Honolulu Advertiser: Sunday, January 13, 2008 A Boost for Hawaii land preservation- link no longer available)

Given Wyland’s past reputation for lack of sensitivity to local culture it should be no surprise that he isn’t waiting to see, or more likely isn’t even aware of- the plans which have involved talks with the Office of Hawaiian affairs, legislative leaders on Kaua`i private organizations and Hawaiian cultural practitioners and activists.

But also in the article is this bit of history revision which in this case is more like the reality of the situation that caused the property to be up for sale after a recent failed development venture.

”Coco Palms Ventures, which bought the Wailua resort in 2006 for $12.3 million and put the 18.8-acre property up for sale last September, shelved plans to restore the resort made famous in Elvis Presley's film "Blue Hawaii" in favor of other projects on the East Coast and due to a slowdown in the residential resort market.

”For those who might have forgotten the “two local guys from Princeville” who were developing the property turned out to be huge Maryland based shopping center builders and land speculators Richard Weiser and Walt Petrie of the Weiser Companies, Inc. and Petrie Ventures.

When the bottom fell out of the real estate market a couple of years back their speculative development businesses there went sour and they could no longer afford their little Kaua`i venture. So to get out of it without being sued they insisted on putting in a spa in an area where they were told and knew they couldn’t develop.

Then they apparently falsely claimed that they had to abandon the project, not because they no longer had the money but because the spa was “essential” to the resort and they couldn’t go forward without it.

This put dozens of local real estate agents and others who put time and energy into selling units there not just out of business but unpaid- in many cases for more than a year of work.

Not the least of these was real estate agent and former Mayor Marianne Kusaka who, according to a very reliable source, told the source that she had to return millions of dollars in advance money when the project went belly up.

Kusaka publicly denied she was “out there looking for a commission, or looking to sell condos”. but basically ran the sales office where the sales people worked for her without getting paid after the project “fell through”.

Yet the report of the attempt to extend the expiring permits in today’s local paper says that Petrie and Weiser were nowhere to be found- possibly because their faces would have caused the usually brain-dead and memory-challenged planning commissioners to remember how they had been bamboozled a few years back.

Instead a previously unknown and unmentioned-anywhere “partner” has apparently surfaced.

The report says:

At the county Planning Commission meeting Tuesday at the Mo‘ikeha Building, Phil Ross, one of three owners of the historic property, argued the development should receive not just the two-year extension to its permits requested in a November letter but a three-year allowance due to current and future economic conditions.“Considering the economic times that we’re under today ... the available funds to move projects forward has all but dried up. Loans are not available today,” Ross said. “I believe it’s going to get worse in 2009, so I’m going to ask you for a three-year extension to this SMA.”

There are so many things wrong here it’s hard to know where to begin. We might start with the fact that the state, OHA and private native groups have been waiting patiently for the permits to expire so they can move forward with the long dreamed of Hawaiian cultural park on the former royal estate lands.

Or it could be that in the intervening years the county council and administration have failed to move to declare the dilapidated remains a public nuisance and tear it down and present a bill to the owners.

Even though some still have visions of “renovating” the old structure and “reclaiming it’s past glory” any one who’s ventured into the place recently knows what a pipe dream that is.

But the worst in all of this may be that the planning commission may not just laugh in their faces and refuse to even consider it- something that should have happened at yesterday’s meeting instead of the reported deferral keeping the matter alive for at least another two weeks.

It’s anyone’s guess whether the all-too-ready-to-capitulate commissioners have any idea that an extension here would be to ostensibly set Kaua`i back 20 years to the bad old days when there was no time limit on permits.

For those like the planning commissioners who may be in the dark, back then permits- and more importantly the zonings itself- were given out with no requirement for “substantial construction” to begin by a specific date.

So what happened was that developers would sit on their permits for 5, 10, 20 or even 30 years.

While the we-aim-to-please commission and planning department started to approve any and all manner of new development it combined with the already approved projects that were languishing with no time limit to cause a double-whammy and plethora of post-`Iniki concurrent development.

During the last 10-15 years that’s basically what’s caused Po`ipu to experience a man-made dust and noise storm and turned Kuhio Highway in Kapa`a into a parking lot.

When it’s all done it will have provided even more of the current “way too much” in the way of tourist accommodations with way too little infrastructure- roads, sewers, housing etc.- to support it.

The public started to notice the mess- especially around re-election time- during the late 90’s and early 00’s. But the answer they got from the entrenched councilmembers was that none of this was their faults since past councils and planning commissions had never bothered to put in conditions that would sunset the permit or zoning if “substantial construction” was not begun within five years .

And though it took many years of sometimes acrimonious nudging from the public to actually move on it, the council and department/ commission finally started putting in 5 year limits on most projects’ zoning and zoning permits respectively.

If there is such a thing as smart growth- something we’re beginning to doubt these days- then there certainly must be dumb growth. And if there ever was a poster child for dumb growth it would be an extension of the right for these sleezoids to develop Coco Palms.

1 comment:

Joan Conrow said...

Happy one year, Andy. Grrrr, ruff, ruff! Get 'em!