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Big plan for Ka'u unveiled

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 9:47 AM HST

by Jason Armstrong

A Delaware company is moving forward with plans to turn five miles of Ka'u coastline into a new community unlike any in the region.

Nani Kahuku Aina LLC envisions thousands of homes, along with government services, private businesses, an airport and several resorts on its 16,457 acres of vacant land.

The firm's Kahuku Villages would extend from Mamalahoa Highway to the ocean. The development would be immediately south of the Hawaiian Ocean View Ranchos subdivision and includes Pohue Bay, along with coastal areas Haliipalala and Kakio.

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Nani Kahuku Aina says it intends to develop about a quarter of the property in three phases, starting as early as 2012, according to an environmental impact statement preparation notice by consultant PBR Hawaii. The notice is the first step in doing a full environmental study of the proposed project as required by state law.

Nani Kahuku Aina President Valentine Peroff did not return a telephone message left Tuesday at the firm's Aiea, Oahu, office.

While this is Nani Kahuku Aina's only project, Peroff has done developments elsewhere, including Maui, and "sees this as an opportunity to give back to Hawaii by providing as many community benefits as the project will allow," said Aaron Eberhardt, project manager.

In August 2006, Nani Kahuku Aina paid $13 million for land that had sold for $42.5 million 16 years earlier. For tax purposes, Hawaii County currently values it at $4.6 million.

The property is the larger of two parcels that, in the late 1980s, were slated to be part of the failed Hawaiian Riviera Resort proposed by Charles Chidiac.

Nani Kahuku Aina will need county, state and federal approvals before it may build. County rezoning and a General Plan amendment, a state reclassification of the agricultural and conservation lands and a Federal Aviation Administration permit all are required, according to the environmental notice.

The project is to be clustered in two areas; a residential and business area close to the highway, and a resort area along the ocean.

"The mauka mixed-use village along Mamalahoa Highway is envisioned to be a walkable, pedestrian-friendly village organized around a village green," the landowner states in the notice. "The village core area would consist of multifamily homes, 'live-work' units, and affordable homes located over or adjoining retail or office space."

Up to 1,050 residential lots ranging in size from 3,500 to 10,000 square feet would comprise this village core.

There also would be a "full range of community support services." Those would include a medical center, schools, veterans services, police station, fire station, bank, post office and restaurants.

The project's "makai village" would have up to 650 hotel and condominium rooms, plus up to 300 "eco-cabins" and oceanfront lots. Two 18-hole golf courses, 850-lot "golf estates," and 500-acre airport/helipad surrounded by 70 lots also would be part of this phase.

"This facility would provide an alternate launching point closer to (Hawaii) Volcanoes National Park for sky-tour operations," the developer states in the notice. Nani Kahuku Aina promises to let Hawaii County use its helicopter or helicopters to transport people needing emergency medical care.

Other features would include a 600-acre coastal area complete with a portion of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, a Hawaiian heritage center showcasing traditional practices, and 170 lots of at least 5 acres each for agricultural and renewable energy production.

A sewage treatment plant, water system and alternative-energy electrical facility would be part of the project.

Creating jobs, protecting the land, providing diverse housing opportunities and increasing basic services are among the developer's stated goals.

Part of the property is used for the endangered hawksbill turtle recovery project.

The idea of any development near the turtles' nesting site concerns Ka'u Preservation, said spokesman Danny Miller. He declined to comment specifically on Nani Kahuku Aina's development plans, however.

"We will be working hard to protect these sacred sites and important habitat in that area," he said.