New & Noteworthy: `Aina Le`a, Kona Spaceport

posted in: November 2017 | 0

Progress on the ‘Aina Le‘a Front: In September, the planning firm of Belt Collins delivered to the Hawai‘i County Planning Department a draft supplemental environmental impact statement preparation notice for the roughly 1,000 acres of Urban land owned by ‘Aina Le‘a, Inc., and the 2,000 or so acres of Agricultural land surrounding it owned by Bridge ‘Aina Le‘a.

On October 13, planning director Michael Yee responded. He explained that the county “will not be the accepting authority … because a State Land Use District Boundary Amendment is being sought and approval … of the boundary amendment will be required from the State Land Use Commission before the project/ action can be implemented.”

In addition, Yee identified a number of problems with the draft SEISPN. It “should provide an overview of the existing development that has occurred on the property” and should “identify the need for the project and timing” and “provide the basis for warranting [the] density increase” represented by changing the Ag land to the Rural classification – thereby allowing an additional 1,400 house sites in the area.

Little Progress on Spaceport Front: The Office of Aerospace Development within the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, is once again seeking no-cost renewals to two contracts that are intended to result in the Kona airport being licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration as a facility for the horizontal launch of reusable space vehicles. If all goes as planned, those vehicles will carry “satellites, experimental payloads, and tourists to space,” the OAD said in its latest report to the Legislature.

Yet for some years now, the OAD has been saying the same thing, with little progress to show. In 2012, it signed a $500,000 no-bid contract with a consulting firm to develop an environmental assessment for the project. The EA is still undelivered, and in October the office asked for a no- cost extension of the contract. Work on a separate $80,000 contract to prepare an FAA application for the facility is pretty much on hold until the EA is completed, said Jeffrey Pang, OAD administrator.

Since the 2012 contract was signed, Pang said, “we’ve had some hiccups along the way.” Chief among them, he said, the Department of Transportation “moved the site on us and the consultant” – RS&H – “had to redocument everything.” Now the hang-up is that the revised airport layout plan for the Kona airport must receive conditional approval from the FAA before the environmental assessment can be completed, he said.

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