East Hawaii News

Hawaiian Homes Commission Approves Pana`ewa Community Center

November 19, 2013, 6:12 PM HST
* Updated November 19, 6:14 PM
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The Hawaiian Homes Commission on Monday voted to grant use of 13 acres of Hawaiian Homes Trust lands for construction of a community center in Pana`ewa.

The Kamoleao Laulima Community Resource Center, which has been in the planning stages for two decades, would include an incubator kitchen, community garden and classrooms.

The project is located on the east side of the Prince Kuhio Plaza, near the intersection of Ohuohu and East Puainako streets.

The effort is being spearheaded by the Pana`ewa Hawaiian Home Lands Community Association.

The association, along with Ha`ola Inc., another community non-profit association, and Hawai`i Community College have secured a $605,000 federal grant for the center.

The center's conceptual plan, from the FEA for the project.

The center’s conceptual plan, from the FEA for the project.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development funds are to help with the planning, design and construction of the community center.

However, additional funding is needed.

“Despite receiving professional planning and design work at pro bono or reduced rates, the PHHLCA is still $200,000 short on the cost of infrastructure,” the commission said in a press release today.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is working with the groups on options for additional funding.

According to the final environmental assessment for the project, the center would be developed on a 1.5-acre portion of the property. The 1,800-square-foot building’s commercial kitchen would be used for fundraising activities, cooking classes and food demonstrations.

The concept for Kamoleao, which in Hawaiian means young shoots of the taro plant (“mole”) and the bright sun (“ao”), was developed in 1993 by kupuna or elders of the community association, the FEA said.

In another vote yesterday, the Hawaiian Homes Commission voted to establish a pilot program designed to prevent cancellations of leases held by Hawaiian homesteaders described as “severely delinquent.”

In a report in April by the state auditor, homesteaders in East Hawaii were identified as those in the state most behind in loan payments.

The audit was critical of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands management of its portfolio of loans to lessees, saying the agency was “ignoring its broader responsibilities” and fiduciary duties.

Since then, the DHHL has been working to set up interim repayment plans for two-thirds of those homesteaders.

The commission said the pilot project will help them explore refinancing options using federal funds provided under the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program.

No response to the proposed program was received from 19% of the delinquent homesteaders, which means they will be subject to contested case hearings, the commission said.

Another 14% are already in the process of having their leases cancelled.

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