Windward Planning Commission hears hours of testimony opposing proposed Ka‘ū resort

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After hours of public testimony on Thursday, the Windward Planning Commission was forced to continue its discussion on an application for a special management area permit for a proposed resort in Ka‘ū.

People, young and old, near and far, traveled to Hilo, many missing a day of work or school, to voice their opposition at the meeting against Black Sand Beach LLC’s proposed residential and commercial development that would sprawl across 147 acres around Punalu‘u Beach Park building approximately 225 residential and short stay units and more infrastructure.

With the meeting ending after 5 p.m., Commission Chair Dennis Lin said it was too late for commissioners to decide on the permit approval. Additionally, there are three petitions for a contested case hearing on the matter.

Special Management Area of proposed Punalu‘u development

If standing is granted for any of those petitioners, Lin said, the case gets deferred as the parties will have to go into mediation.

A continued hearing on the matter is yet to be scheduled.

For those not watching the meeting in the Hawai‘i County Council chambers at the county building, they were listening from the courtyard. Nearly 300 people streamed the meeting on YouTube and several people from O‘ahu and Maui testified over Zoom.


Testifiers expressed many of the same sentiments that a resort in Ka‘ū would not only be detrimental to the community but it would put endangered species that call the area home at risk, including Hawksbill turtles that nest on Punalu‘u Beach Park.

The project site, once known and operated as Sea Mountain at Punalu‘u was host to a now-closed 18-hole golf course and its clubhouse facilities, a tennis center, the former Punalu‘u Restaurant and related support facilities and infrastructure, according to the background report filed to the commission.

Lāhainā resident Tiare Lawrence testified over Zoom from Maui that she supported the Ka‘ū community in opposing the proposed resort.

Punalu‘u site plan design

“Coming from Lāhainā we lost so much,” Lawrence said, adding there is no beach in the area that isn’t impeded by resorts. “I would hate to have what happened to West Maui happen to a beautiful rural community.”

Testifiers expressed building this resort is a desecration of cultural sites.


One testifier stated: “This space is not just a stretch of sand but a place of cultural identity. The cultural heritage and health of the environment cannot be bought or sold.”

An 11-year-old boy also sat in front of the commission expressing his love for Punalu‘u Beach and his hope to keep it as it is for his family and friends in the years to come.

Demetrius Oliveira, born and raised in Pāhala, testified giving his unwavering support of the project.

“Ka‘ū, our long-beloved home, has long grappled with economic challenges leaving many of our residents with limited job opportunities and enduring lengthy commutes,” Oliveira said. “The project promises significant job creation and economic revitalization for the area as well as respecting the culture.”

Hawai‘i County Council member Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder spoke at the meeting in an unofficial capacity speaking for himself.


“It’s apparent that it’s the community that makes Punalu‘u so special and they are here,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “It’s rare that this many people show up for anything.”

After reading the 578-page report filed by Black Sand Beach LLC to the commission, Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder saw nothing that talked about how it would be self-sustaining.

“There’s a missing connection between the people and applicant,” the councilman said.

With the discussion on the permit continued a testifier at the meeting asked that the commission reschedule a meeting for a Saturday In fairness to the people of Ka‘ū, allowing those residents an opportunity to speak on the permit.

Toward the end of the meeting, one testifier presented the commission with a petition against the Punalu‘u resort with 10,000 signatures. As of Thursday evening, the petition garnered a total of 11,135 supporters.

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