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hanalei Hanalei land developers met by full crowd

Hundreds opposed to ridge development

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Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012 1:00 am

HANALEI — It was standing room only at Hanalei School’s cafeteria Tuesday evening as more than 400 Kaua‘i residents turned out to hear a presentation by developers of the Hanalei Plantation Resort.

The meeting was an opportunity for people to ask questions and express their opinions about the 86 hotel units and 34 luxury homes planned by Ohana Real Estate Investors in the heart of Hanalei Bay.

OREI Vice President Eric Crispin said Hanalei is clearly a place many hold dear.

“The people who came out tonight came out in large numbers to tell us it’s a special place,” he said. “It’s a special place for us as well. We care deeply about the place. We also care deeply about the environment and the culture and we’re trying to strive for that balance between what is financially feasible and looking after the environment as well as the culture.”

 A 21-page list was filled with names of people who wanted to testify at the meeting. Many of them were concerned about the environmental and visual impact of a large-scale project on the Hanalei River Ridge.

“We are the original stewards of this land and we can see that this is an opportunity to save a significant part of Hanalei Bay’s beauty,” said Hayley Ham Young-Giorgio, of Hanalei. As someone with several generations of family from Hanalei, Ham Young-Giorgio lamented the potential loss of the “Garden of Eden that so well defines Kaua‘i.”

The development company is owned by Ohana Holdings LLC, whose primary investor is eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, one of the 50 wealthiest people in the United States and a known philanthropist.

“We are very early in the process,” said Michelle Swartman, OREI’s director of land and community development. “There’s no real sense of urgency.”

Swartman, who is originally from O‘ahu, lives on the North Shore of Kaua‘i with her Kaua‘i-born husband and their sons.

“I wanted to just first to thank the Hanalei to Ha‘ena Community Association Board,” said Swartman, adding that it takes a lot of courage for the people to speak publicly — and for her to face the crowd.

“We understand the desire to protect (Hanalei),” she said. “Whenever you feel something is special and worthy of protection, you’re going to hold it close to your chest and to your heart and I understand all the concern that you may have.”

Swartman said Omidyar does not get involved in the daily operations of OREI. His focus, she said, is on philanthropic efforts such as food security and sustainability.

“He has investment projects here on Kaua‘i in regard to alternative energy,” said Swartman, inviting people to visit the ‘Ulopono Initiative website for more on Omidyar’s vision and where he uses his financial resources.

“We have a whole bunch of PhDs and scientists on our team to help us understand first what we have on our property, to understand what was on our property,” said Swartman, adding that those same PhDs and scientists will help the company as it moves to where it wants to be.

The crowd burst into applause when Swartman showed a permitting flowchart covering multiple jurisdictions.

“This covers the federal, state and county jurisdictions and approvals that we have yet to go through,” said Swartman. “I appreciate the applause, because we need the encouragement too.”

She then turned over the room to Rob Iopa, a principal architect with WCIT Architecture. Iopa has been working on Hanalei Plantation Resort plans for more than two years.

“I’ve been to many community meetings, but I can’t remember one that has had this type of turnout,” said Iopa to another round of applause. “I think the other part that catches me a little off guard is that for some reason, I didn’t expect to see a lot of keiki, and I see a lot of keiki in the crowd. It reminds me again how important this is not for what happens today, but for what happens tomorrow.”

Iopa talked about bringing the “special ambiance of Hanalei” to the project, along with the use of “Hawaiian sustainability.”

He said the property is zoned for 600 units, but the developers are only proposing a total of 120 units, including 86 hotel units and 34 residential lots.

The residential lots are being proposed on top of a ridge along Hanalei River, and would be suitable for luxury homes. The hotel units — bungalows or cottages roughly 500-feet each — would be built on a large piece of land between the ridge and the former Princeville Hotel, now the St. Regis Resort.

Additionally, the project includes restoration of a large and ancient Hawaiian fishpond near the ocean. The fishpond is currently covered by marsh full of invasive species. Some of the cottages would line up around the fishpond.

The property would feature a central parking lot with access by golf carts. Iopa said the design of the buildings would “touch the ground as light as possible.”

“We need to look to the past to guide the future,” Iopa said of embracing the natural environment and blending nature with the proposed development.

But when Iopa specifically addressed concerns over “McMansions looming over the river,” he was met with a shout of “yeah, right,” from someone in the crowd.


Faced with 21 pages of people who signed up to speak, facilitator Herb Lee had his work cut out for him ensuring that the evening stayed on time and friendly.

“To introduce multi-million-dollar homes sitting on top of the ridge looking down on Black Pot, would break the heart of thousands of people who live here and also those who come to visit and enjoy the beauty of the Bay,” Ham Young-Giorgio said. “Building on the ridge opens the door to letting it become more like Laguna Beach and less like Hanalei.”

Nick Beck took a different strategy. He asked the crowd what they saw looking in various directions around Hanalei and was met with shouts of “Green!”

“When you look to Princeville, what do you see?” Beck asked.

“White!” the crowd responded as he asked the OREI team to consider the visual impact on the community.

“Princeville was a disaster,” one woman in the crowd said loudly.

John Ferry asked developers to use story poles, “so the world can see what they are doing on the ridge.”

“This is a sacred place,” he said of several other failed developments on the ridge over the years. “It is not meant to be developed.”

Ferry also asked if it was OREI’s intention to eventually sell the property.

“Clearly there’s a message that you care deeply,” said Crispin in response to Ferry. “We are a landowner. It is not our intention to flip and sell.”

One woman raised the question of sewage treatment.

“Where is all that (expletive deleted) going?” she asked. “My daughter does water studies three times a week in Hanalei Bay. When you swim in Hanalei Bay, you swim in sewage. What else do we have to give up?”

Coral researcher Terry Lilley also had concerns over Hanalei Bay.

“All good but not one person mentioned the health of the reefs in Hanalei Bay! A project this big would make a negative impact on the reefs as it would release toxic mud into an already polluted bay,” he said in an email Wednesday morning. “The developers had no mention of following the Endangered Species Act and protecting the reefs. We already have the worst coral disease to ever hit Hawai‘i and a large development right on the river would make the problem worse. I think people are forgetting that the sea is 79 percent of our island.”

Musician Kepa Kruse commended OREI for a “great presentation.”

“It was very culturally sensitive,” he said. “We all appreciate here what you have done. But please, tell Mr. Omidyar this: We’re not mad at him. I don’t believe the problem is with Pierre.”

The problem, Kruse said, stems from the management team and the board of financial advisors telling Omidyar that this is a good investment.

“I want to send a formal invitation to Mr. Omidyar,” he said. “Come to Hanalei. See what we see. Live how we live. Walk the pier. Come down and eat from the Black Pot of the Ham Young family. I think that’s the only way that the change is gonna happen.”

• Laurie Cicotello, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or business@thegardenisland.com

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  • riverriim posted at 4:30 pm on Tue, Nov 20, 2012.

    riverriim Posts: 342

    Regarding your 'Preserve the Beauty + Spirit of Hanalei': while supposing you not to be a Tea Party anti-science, anti-math, anti-science wag, and, therefore, you give some credence to the prospects of global warming and ocean level rise (not to mention island subsidence), once you have ensured that the current ridge developers are run away ---selling to someone who would most likely care less for Hanalei community concerns and push a project through the county planning with lawyers and courts, which they would win--- from P-vile at Hanalei, how do you think Hanalei town is going to be spared from becoming once again in its millions of years history a part of the bottom of the bay? If you have a plan for saving Hanalei as we know it without spending billion$ like the Netherlands and New Orleans to continue to live at and below sea level, many people in even higher elevations than Hanalei in the world would like you to share your idea.


  • riverriim posted at 1:31 pm on Tue, Nov 20, 2012.

    riverriim Posts: 342

    Would that non-utilization of land and allowing invasive weeds sustain us, that beauty rested on distant blotches of greenery that serve no purpose but some ephemeral sense of beauty.

    Some of you folks gotta think outside the box: it does not mean you have to swallow the project whole either as it exists in watercolors or architectural renderings. Just start with getting over the notion that that historically developed piece of the ridge can somehow add to Black Pot or be a state park becoming something to Hanalei like Central Park is to NYC. That ridgeline is no playground -- it is dangerous beyond being able to made safe to the public with a couple miles of 8ft high chain-link fencing and a plethora of warning signs and other barriers.

    Try tell a true Hawaiian, one whose fingerprints literally mesh with ka `aina that (a, or some one's sense of) 'beauty' of greenery (any species will do, yes?) is more precious or sacred than any potentially sustainable use of the land can be.

  • konabish posted at 8:21 am on Tue, Nov 20, 2012.

    konabish Posts: 36

    Loss is forever -- It must be stopped! I hope everyone who comments against it will TAKE ACTION in more than just words: And here is one very powerful way to say that:

    SignOn.org has been a very successful way to make change, and this local has started one - Preserve the Beauty + Spirit of Hanalei. Stop the development of Hotel and Luxury Villas on Hanalei River http://signon.org/sign/stop-the-development -- It only 'costs' a few seconds of your time.

  • riverriim posted at 12:10 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    riverriim Posts: 342

    Pristine (?) natural (?) beauty (?) on the ridge? With all your no-knowledge, you must be a signatory to the Save The (pristine-free) Ridge petition on your first pilgrimage to Black Pot to get high on exhausts of two cycle boat engines as their revs echo off the concrete footings of never finished condos deeply embedded into what's left of the ridge after 1990 when the ridges last developer did a twenty foot decapitation of the top of the ridge so his condos could be built multi-storied.

    Perhaps, as with the ridge, the day will come when places like the Lydgate sewage treatment facility and Kekaha landfill will be overgrown with australian pines, false kamani, hau bush, pig weed, wedelia, albezia, african tulip trees and or other foreign, aggressive plants creating greenishly monochromatic canopies of invasive species over ground that is anything but pristine. For land that has been pimped to death to become pristine, more than a few millennia would be required by nature.

  • Helplesskauaiian posted at 9:19 pm on Sat, Nov 17, 2012.

    Helplesskauaiian Posts: 2

    Absolutely crazy to think that someone would want to build on the ridge, who really is benefiting from ruining the pristine natural beauty? How could this kind of development make Hanalei more beautiful? Trying to bribe their way in with ponds and sewage plants, shame. How many past developments currently sit half empty on Kauai? Kukui Grove, Wailua/Safeway Shopping Center, Kikuiula all have plenty empty vacancies. Coco Palms just sits there, but no, we need to build more! The County Planning Dept. should be ashamed for zoning the area for development in the first place. Malihini, Kamaina, Haole or Kanaka - it doesn't take much intelligence to realize this is wrong for the 'aina and people who live and love Hanalei. How about some real philanthropy; rebuild the ponds, build a new sewage facility and make the rest a park. You would become an instant legend for generations to retell the story again and again. What? No profit with that idea? After so many years why not people over profit?

  • kahiau posted at 7:53 am on Sat, Nov 17, 2012.

    kahiau Posts: 0

    love the intelligent comments by most...public forum is only to see who is in which camp, pro or con. Pandering to the masses as this project WILL go through.

    Excellent point by kupuna: 50 years ago, mainlanders moved here and scooped up their parcel without concern. I recall as kid, local stores, everyone knew and helped each other. SO...the fight is with the planning department. Get a copy of flow chart and if you are really concerned, get in the mix and attend the real meetings.

    Another point: funny watching new comers who bought multi-million dollar beach Hanalei bay properties all of a sudden wanting to vent their opposition. Same sentiment can be directly applied descendants of missionary land holders. levels of ethics, morals greatly vary.

    Take a further look at Kealia redevelopment, Kauapea, Sea Cliff? where were you..tons of detrimental layers with this project. Again, it is getting built. a matter of compromise. Ohana has all bases covered ready for all conflicts

  • norm smith posted at 11:07 am on Fri, Nov 16, 2012.

    norm smith Posts: 1

    Once again I will ask the one person who can save a place where he grew up..... to become the President of the United States..... Please enter the District of Hanalei into the Federal Park system, and PROTECT it from mass development..... before it becomes the next Waikiki. DO YOU HEAR ME MR PRESIDENT?, and if not then I will try his better half.... DO YOU HEAR ME FIRST LADY?????

  • riverriim posted at 9:39 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    riverriim Posts: 342

    They will use the existing sewage treatment facility that serves Princeville Phase One development, effluent from which is not released to the bay as some speakers claimed. The effluent is pumped back up to the golf course reservoirs (aka water hazards for golfers) and is used to irrigate the golf course.

    Hanalei needs a sewage plant, but global warming's rising oceans will render that issue moot, at least for ground that is Hanalei currently twenty feet or so above sea level --- virtually all of what is called Hanalei today except for Hanalei ridge.

    How ironic for those young Hanalei folks protesting the development who envision Hanalei ridge as something they --the "ridge-buggers" , the "Save Hanalei Ridge coalition"--- will be viewing in its "preserved" condition from seats in their lawn chairs sixty years from now !!

    It's more likely their children or grandchildren will be surfing waves ten and fifteen feet over Kuhio Hwy and Weke Rd. Save Hanalei ! or kiss her bye bye?

  • riverriim posted at 8:56 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    riverriim Posts: 342

    The beauty of the `aina in indigenous cultures like Hawai`i lay first in the aina's utility, the aina's value as it relates to human efforts of self-sustainability and its viably hosting other indigenous life on and through which indigenous culture is founded.

    "Preserving the `aina " ? Whether the vegetation on the ridge is wholly invasive species or not, just save it ?

    If that part of the Hanalei River were a human being its current condition would be like a gang-rape victim who'd been left for dead for twenty years all the while pleading for someone to come to his/her aid.

    By definition, gardens are a product of human effort, human hands in soil. Kaua`i is not called the Garden Island because it's green with invasive species; albeit, for some surfer transplants gazing from their boards in the bay during breaks from waiting tables, sleeping or otherwise just existing as a self and fun loving garden-less consumer with an appetite for American materialism see it so.

  • islandwide posted at 5:15 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    islandwide Posts: 187

    There is no PARADISE on EARTH !! PARADISE is in HEAVEN. Even if there was a Paradise here .... it means you haven't been any where else.. there are a lot more beautiful places on this earth .. but it's not PARADISE.

  • kctim posted at 3:15 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    kctim Posts: 1

    KcTim here from Kansas City. Brenda and I are future Kama aina to Kauai. Black Pot, Hanalei Bay- the whole area is paradise and we can't wait to move there permanently. Don't change Hanalei, Black Pot, nothing. It really is the draw to Kauai and especially the North Shore. To turn Hanalei into a "Princeville" would be a terrible thing. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the Princeville area. However, Princeville and Hanalei compliment each other. It's a really cool thing to stay in Princeville- a small town-type community. To leave Princeville heading towards the bay and you make the 1st turn/scenic stop overlooking the bay, you get the sensation of "you're about to enter paradise." Once you arrive at Hanalei (Black Pot), you realize you have entered paradise. Don't take that away. People of Hanalei/Princeville, don't let anything happen to paradise.

  • Mahina posted at 2:41 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    Mahina Posts: 0

    So many mainland people build things on Kauai just to prove they can. Then they leave their mess for everyone else to clean up. After seeing the massive flooding the Hanalei Valley had in March, I think it is crazy to allow any more development. Just look how many people were trapped in Princeville during that flooding and how the roads got washed out. Yes, sure Hanalei needs a sewage treatment plant, but how many times will it overflow when the power goes out? Face it, on Kauai, nature rules. The salt in the air rules.Mr. Philanthropist should abandon this idea and donate all of the land to as a conservation area and try to save whatever he can to help the island. Wunderground.com says we have a new changing climate now with much more water vapor. It is only going to mean more rain for Hanalei and much more erosion in existing areas. Mr. P should be thinking about protecting Ka'Aina, not destroying it.

  • AEOIV posted at 11:32 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    AEOIV Posts: 0

    If Ohana really wants to make good on their promise to work with the community. They will donate the bottom 14 Lots to the county for a park. Not to be built upon forever. The sight line with the culdesac on the right as you come down the ridge.According to their drawings.That sight line matches HBR and the Saint Regis. It will increase the value of the first 21 lots, so Ohana will still get the return on their investment along with the other improvements (Hotel etc). That is the right thing to do!

  • beefcake posted at 11:16 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    beefcake Posts: 2

    Long and short is that this development is not needed. Mr "Philanthropist" needs to sit on a board in the bay, turn around and look back at the view. Nothing he, his minions or his billions can improve upon.

  • numilalocal posted at 10:23 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    numilalocal Posts: 401

    And how many of the folks opposed to this - and other - development have themselves moved here from somewhere else?

  • realitychick posted at 9:27 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    realitychick Posts: 264

    If billionaire Omidyar was truly philanthropic and understood the desire to protect Hanalei as Swartman touts, he would not rape and pillage Hanalei for his own selfish desires.Philanthropist: "The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations."I have spoken with some locals who believe that this area is eventually going to be developed anyway so we might as well take the deal. This line of thinking is so wrong on so many levels. If this development happens it is a sad day for humanity as a whole. To think that one person has the ability to destroy one of the most pristine places on earth is a travesty."Philanthropist," Mr. Omidyar, you are not. Please, do the right thing and leave this piece of Heaven alone. That is what a true philanthropist would do.

  • Mokihana posted at 9:12 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    Mokihana Posts: 58

    I'm against development and for preservation of our natural resources and island beauty. I wonder how many of those against this development drive and park on the sand at Hanalei Bay and other beaches on the island. Either you're for preserving the aina or you're not. Be sincere, be consistent, be honest.

  • Meme posted at 8:50 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    Meme Posts: 1

    The reality is that the land is zoned for development. The question we all need to focus on is what type of development should take place vs. if development should take place. If the community does not support any type of development ( the man bought it with rights to develop ), how do we expect "him" to work with "us"?

    When I want to be heard, I speak softly. Because shouts often fall on deaf ears.

  • uamaukeeaokaainaikapono posted at 8:38 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    uamaukeeaokaainaikapono Posts: 77

    you should have seen Hanalei 60 years ago! Soooooooo beautiful, with the local people growing taro, tending to their stores to provide food for the locals. For some reason, beautiful Hanalei and Haena became a place for the rich to buy, build, visit when they had time-----then the hotels and Princeville. Hanalei and Haena were lost! So now, all the people who moved there and have a place don't want anymore building! What do you think the locals felt 40-50 years ago? The same, but they had no power, didn't know how to stop the growth and all the old timers could say was AUWE, AUWE, AUWE-------so is the way!

  • Regular Guy Giving Just Retorts posted at 8:14 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    Regular Guy Giving Just Retorts Posts: 941

    Kahiau you should buy the land then and do what you like, which appears to be nothing and that's OK.

    Or work with these people or against them... The more costly it becomes to develop the higher those unit counts will probably go... & there's 480 more they can add to the mix... Buck them all the way to the bitter end and see all 600 units...

    Or work with them and maybe get a sewage plant for the area and then you won't have to swim in the swill of yours and everyone else's sewage in Hanalei Bay... You know it's coming one way or the other... Development; so why not score some good for the area while deep pockets are present and make the sewage plant required to be operational before occupancy of any unit in the development.

  • interesting posted at 7:12 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    interesting Posts: 1931

    the coral thing seems legit. seems like a high chance of that bay getting dirty during construction too. i bet if people believed the county could ensure no coral damage, minimal final view plane impact, and runoff protections....many more people could get behind it. but that planning dept does not seem up to the task (even if those terms were negotiated)

    good map here: http://hanaleiplantation.com/hpr/?page_id=492

  • kahiau posted at 7:00 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2012.

    kahiau Posts: 0

    remember this one point-Ohana is intent to build, period PERIOD! Moderator sure was offensive trying to sway community to give "solutions" or "show graciousness"... Ohana is slick giving distractions, Phd experts proving them right, hand holding specific kupuna proponets "french impressionist" drawings, "eco" "free," good steward, "we care too" is ALL a plan to capitalize what's best for profit. show adversion to any of the the thousands of reason NOT to build causes Ohana to defend why WE are wrong and the project is wonderful Give an inch, they'll take their mile. It's "their" property as "land owners"... listened intently to it all, Their "values" not lifestyle of community Iopa's slow disregard for anything other than showcasing THEIR side, you'd hear the ultimate intent. Pierre isn't going improve anyones lifestyle other than rich owners who care less...my hawaiian lineage is further being over run... Take note from the flow chart who in what department is green lighting


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