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Kona Land Use Victory (Letter to Editor- West Hawaii Today)
The Kona community has been fighting for decades to preserve what’s left of West Hawai`i’s coastal, Conservation lands. `O`oma II, located less than a mile from Kaloko-Honokohau National Park and adjacent to Kohanaiki (aka “Pine Trees”), is one of the only ones that hasn’t been developed or permitted to be in the future. Having sufficient natural areas for the public’s cultural, recreational, spiritual, and subsistence needs makes it imperative to Kona’s burgeoning population that `O`oma’s 300 acres not be developed as has most of West Hawai`I’s coastline.
Since the early 1990s, `O`oma has been threatened by major urban and resort development. In 2010, after four years of input and review, the State Land Use Commission (LUC) voted to deny `O`oma’s reclassification for urban use. The land’s current owners, O`oma Beachside Villages LLC, appealed the decision, calling the LUC “incompetent” and “irrational”. In fact, the clear and deliberate denial of what would have otherwise been another speculative tragedy was one of most rational decisions the LUC ever made.
In July 2011, an appeals court agreed, confirming the protection of `O`oma and its sensitive near shore waters. That decision also helped shore up the public’s role in the land use process — a democratic safeguard also threatened by the developers’ appeal.
The last chance for O`oma Beachside Villages LLC to appeal the court’s decision passed in November 2011, giving the public its third major `O`oma victory in twenty years, leaving `O`oma’s Conservation protections intact and another misplaced development plan DOA.
Though the landowners have shown no interest in selling their property, the time is right for them to do so. Despite the Kenoi administration’s unwarranted support of `O`oma’s development, its public acquisition and protection has been so popular that `O`oma has been listed in Hawai`I County’s top five places to be acquired through the Open Space program. Meanwhile, greed and poor business sense have brought progressively bigger speculative losses to landowners who refuse to live with the restrictions that come with the Conservation-designated properties they buy. The grueling and wasteful fights they’ve instigated make it increasingly clear that the only way to insure `O`oma’s long-term protection is for it to be publicly owned and controlled in perpetuity.
The sooner the landowners let go of their fruitless development plans for `O`oma II, the sooner the County can get on with the positive work of prioritizing, acquiring, and maintaining `O`oma II as natural, protected, open space.
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