Kehalani Developer Disputes Claim Of a Promised Community Center

posted in: February 2021, Land Use | 0

Much of the Land Use Commission’s attention focused on the apparent inability and unwillingness of the Wailuku Plantation and its owner, Vernon Lindsey, to fulfill conditions of a 1990 district boundary amendment. However, RCFC Kehalani, LLC, which assumed obligations under that same boundary amendment, also came under fire for what residents of its development say are serious breaches of those conditions.

James Buika, a 14-year resident of the Kehalani subdivision, asked the commission to make sure that any stipulation agreement it approved include a specific requirement that RCFC Kehalani “follow through on required dedications that amount to millions of dollars of unmet obligations to date.”

Buika noted that in its 2018 report to the LUC, “there is no mention of dedication of the required Community Center parcel as required under the original LUC Condition No. 7.” His testimony included proposed language to be added to the stipulation: that bifurcation not take effect until the five-acre community center parcel is dedicated to the Kehalani Community Association and other dedications for parks and roadways are completed.

Livit Callentine echoed Buika’s concerns. The 1990 decision and order approved by the LUC included a finding of fact, specifying that the Wailuku portion of the project (known now as Kehalani), “will be supported by a community center, parks, an open space system, and a school.” As to parks, there were to be 110 acres of parks dedicated to the county.

One such park has already been dedicated to the county, Callentine continued. “However, this ‘park’ of approximately 7.5 acres has been closed under padlock and to my knowledge has never been open to the community,” she said. “Further, this ‘park’ actually functions as a drainage basin, and the only lucky user of the ‘park’ is a herd of goats. It is my understanding that the owners within Kehalani Mauka and Kehalani Makai are paying for the maintenance of the ‘park’ that they do not own and are not allowed to access.”

As to the community center, Callentine said, when she purchased her condo in 2005, “the sales agent proudly pointed out there would be a community center… Further, within the first year of my occupancy, the managing agent for the Kehalani Community Association sent out a survey to all current owners seeking out our thoughts on what amenities we favored at the community center.”

Karin Phaneuf, another Kehalani resident, made the same complaint. “Since its inception, the Kehalani residents have taken a back seat to whichever developer was in charge of the community,” she said. “We have gone for many years without the park on Waiale which is currently a playground for goats. In the past, all of the neighbors have really enjoyed that park and the community residents met regularly to walk their dogs and catch up with each other. The developer has locked up that park now for about eight years and we are unable to gather there. I believe it has been dedicated to the county now but it still continues to be locked up.”

The community center “has never come to fruition and the county keeps allowing the developers to build more homes, build more homes, build more homes, but not to finish the makai park (Prison View Park) for people (not goats) and to renege on their promise to build a much needed community center in our neighborhood. Neighbors have been holding meetings for years in the tiny trailer where the Kehalani administrators work. Please honor the people of Kehalani by holding this developer accountable for the project he purchased and for the promises the county agreed would be fulfilled back in the 1990s.”

Randall Sakumoto, attorney for RCFC Kehalani, was asked about the residents’ complaints by commissioner Dawn Chang.

“Let me ask one final question,” Chang said. “There are outstanding dedications that … your clients have to fulfill?”
Sakumoto agreed that there were “still certain things which need to be done,” adding that he had been in discussions with the county about them. “It’s not something we’re hiding from or running from.”

Commissioner Lee Ohigashi, following up on the same point, noted that in recent correspondence with Maui County, Sakumoto’s client seemed to back-pedal on any commitment to follow through with construction of the community center.

Specifically, in an October 23 letter, Jeffrey Ueoka, another attorney representing RCFC, told the county’s directors of parks and of planning that his client “does not agree with the Planning Department’s interpretation” that it was bound by terms of the original decision and order to construct a community center.

In that letter, Sakumoto proposed that to resolve the question, RCFC “shall petition the state Land Use Commission to clarify the issue. RCFC’s expectation would be that the county support RCFC’s petition at the state Land Use Commission to only require the dedication of the community center site,” rather than construction of the center proper.

When Ohigashi pressed Sakumoto on whether RCFC intended to petition the LUC for a finding on the question of whether the original LUC decision required the community center and also on the extent of park dedications that were to occur, Sakumoto said that his client was still “awaiting a response” from the county to that October 23 letter. “So I don’t want to say there will be something coming … if it is resolved separately with the county.”

After still further questioning from Ohigashi, Sakumoto said, “After bifurcation, we will respond to any inquiry the commission has. It’s a complicated discussion. … I don’t think it’s necessarily tied to the bifurcation.”

— Patricia Tummons

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