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Hanapepe proposal lacks state support

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Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2009 12:00 am

LIHU‘E — An ambitious plan to build everything from oceanfront timeshare units to affordable housing for Native Hawaiians and other Kaua‘i residents lacks two critical components.

Land and Lingle.

The plan’s success is predicated on Kalaheo resident Carl Tashima’s ability to acquire a perpetual lease of state property in Hanapepe, which requires approval from Gov. Linda Lingle.

That approval isn’t forthcoming, state officials said, though Tashima remains undeterred.

He announced the specifics of the plan during an exclusive interview with The Garden Island recently, and is calling on island residents to call, write and e-mail Lingle to encourage her to consider the project and lease.

The proposal would involve nearly 2,000 acres of state land from an area west of and adjacent to the county Salt Pond Beach Park rolling mauka onto former Gay and Robinson sugar on state Department of Land and Natural Resources and state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property, west of the Hanapepe River in its mauka reaches.

It would include the island’s first garbage-to-energy plant, and has been designed to be totally self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and zero waste, according to the proposal and the 68-year-old Tashima.

The 2008 proposal, which was modified slightly to include a request for even more state land for buffer zones and more housing, is an updated version of a 2006 proposal rejected in mid-2006 by Peter T. Young, then chairperson of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The idea was rejected by Young, in a letter to Tashima, due to lack of a master plan, insufficient project information and details, no evidence of financial feasibility and lack of real-estate planning, development and financing by the proposal’s authors, Tashima and Bruce Pleas.

Still, Tashima is moving forward, buoyed by backing from many of the island’s small contractors, who approached him with their support, he said.

Now, the economic model is to sell and build a timeshare resort next to Salt Pond Beach Park, and used proceeds from that project to fund the remainder of the total project, valued at over $1.3 billion.

Under his plan, Tashima says homes will sell for around $150,000 (he says he has contractors who can and will build for $100,000 a home), and the land currently designated as agricultural under both state and county classification systems will remain in agriculture, with homeowners encouraged to grow their own food on their leased properties.

“We want it to stay in ag,” said Tashima.

Under a plan where homeowners would also be corporation shareholders, the value of the homeowners would grow as the project grows, allowing homeowners to be able to easily pay mortgages and buy their own land elsewhere if they desire, he said.

Tashima asks with a smile, what will the island’s economy be like with 4,000 new millionaires?

Home ownership will be limited to those who were born on Kaua‘i, or whose parents or children were born on the island, he said.

“In order to get into this exclusive club, you have to be worthy of it,” said Tashima.

The overall plan calls for 4,000 total homes, including 2,000 on the DHHL land, he said.

A recent county survey indicated 2,700 to 3,100 residents would buy homes on the island if they could afford them, he said.

If the project is successful here, plans are to take it to the other islands in the state, he said.

“I’m not after the credit,” he said. He just wants to see the project succeed. “It’s for the locals. It’s totally for the local people.”

The project also includes public-park and beach-park components and, as a long-time dream of Tashima’s, some sort of sports school.

On the Fourth of July, while watching the Kaua‘i Hospice aerial fireworks from a friend’s house in Lihu‘e, the under-construction Kaua‘i Lagoons project came into view, and he came upon his project-financing idea, he said.

A timeshare component near the beach.

“We needed something to pay for this,” Tashima said.

The plan is to offer jobs to residents as well, in the various components of the project (timeshare, hotel, electric plant, etc.), with around 2,000 jobs slated to be created, the least-paying one being $15 an hour.

The homes will sell themselves because people will want to buy them, and the basic infrastructure will be paid for with profits from the home and timeshare sales, Tashima said.

The idea is that timeshare sales can begin around two years before ground is even broken for the oceanfront project, “and as you sell them, you build them,” he said of the project, which could include up to 1,000 timeshare units.

The estimated $3.5 billion to $4 billion in timeshare sales is to be collateral to borrow money from banks and other financial institutions for construction fees and other purposes, including 0-percent construction loans payable at the end of construction.

Tashima thinks that, as Donald Trump didn’t put a dime of his own money into a Waikiki condominium project that sold out eight hours after sales started, “the homes (in his project) are going to sell within weeks.”

Once the agreement from Lingle and the state is secured, timeshare sales can begin. Once job-creation begins, there won’t be enough local people to fill all the jobs, so residents who left the island will be able to come home and find work, he said.

Homesites will be around 12,000 square feet each (around a 1/4 acre), giving owners the ability to build a second home and still have room for agriculture on their parcels. The DHHL lots will be a bit smaller, no larger than 8,000 square feet each, he said.

Additionally, a shopping center and industrial and commercial complexes are planned, Tashima said.

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