PRINCEVILLE — The controversial glamping development proposed for a portion of the Princeville Makai Woods Golf Course has been withdrawn by applicant Starwood Capital Group.
Efforts to halt the 50-tent “glamorous camping” proposal on open space were aggressive, with residents teaming together to protect the master-planned Princeville community in a nearly year-and-a-half-long back-and-forth about what developments should be allowed on open-zoned districts.
Starwood representatives informed the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association, as well as the Kaua‘i County Council, of its permit application withdrawal on Tuesday morning. An affiliate of Starwood owns the in-progress 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay on Ka Haku Road, Makai Golf Course and Woods Course in Princeville.
“We are going back to the drawing board and intend to review all of the potential options for development that will be available to us when the current land-use covenant expires in 2026,” Starwood Capital Group Vice President Jason Cruce said Tuesday, noting a part of the Princeville master plan covenant which states that the golf courses remain development-free for another five years.
A Planning Commission public hearing was to be held on Dec. 14 for the 362-page glamping permit application that was submitted in early October.
Proposed on about 63 acres of land on the first through third holes of the Wood Course, the developed campground would have included 50 tent-like units, a pedestrian/golf cart path, outdoor decks and fire bowls. The proposal also included an arrival pavilion and additional resort parking.
According to a Nov. 23 Planning Department director’s report, the project would have been developed in three phases, with the department monitoring the project for two years, recording grievances and the developer returning to the Planning Commission to address issues. If there were no grievances, the applicant would be allowed to move forward into the next phase of the project.
The director’s report also notes Bill No. 2822 (now known as Bill No. 2838), a bill that would prohibit developed campgrounds in open-zoned or agricultural districts, would have restricted the proposal. While this Nov. 23 report suggested the Planning Commission approve the proposal, it noted that should the bill pass, the Planning Department would not give its blessing.
“If the bill passes as currently proposed and is adopted into law before the public hearing date of this application, then the department would amend its recommendation to deny the subject permits,” the report states.
The bill, up for final reading today before the council, is expected to pass unanimously. And had the application run its course, residents wished to see the council approve the bill on Dec. 1 and have Mayor Derek Kawakami sign it into law before the Dec. 14 hearing.
Open-space deals, agreements and covenants
The Princeville at Hanalei Community Association represents nearly 3,000 homeowners. In an attempt to make a deal, earlier this year the PHCA board and Starwood discussed permanently committing the golf-course lands to open space and other Princeville community benefits from Starwood in exchange for the board’s support of certain development projects, General Manager Maylette Garces said.
In May, Starwood offered the golf-course lands to open space permanently in exchange for the board’s support of the glamping and other development projects. This offer, Garces said, was only good for 18 months.
“The board felt that condition and other conditions imposed by Starwood were unacceptable,” Garces said. “Because of those unacceptable conditions, the board unanimously rejected Starwood’s offer at its June 17, 2021 meeting.”
After that, the PHCA board told Starwood it would be interested in a restrictive covenant to protect the remainder of the Princeville golf-course lands, and included proposed language. Prior to its withdrawal, PHCA even filed a petition to intervene as an interested party in Starwood’s glamping application.
“The board is sensitive to the fact that, within our community, some individual members are strongly in favor of PHCA making an agreement with Starwood, while others are strongly against this, and others are somewhere in between or perhaps indifferent,” Sam George, president of the PHCA board of directors, said. “PHCA will continue to advocate on behalf of the entire association in its discussions with Starwood to achieve the best possible outcome for our community as a whole.”
In a February survey, 94% of Princeville residents and property owners believed that preserving open space in Princeville was critical, and nearly 82% of 782 people who responded to the PHCA survey said preserving open space — including golf courses and parks — in the community is “very important.”
About 42% of respondents said they would support litigation to prevent development on Princeville’s open spaces, while just 19.6% said they would not.
Designer, planner, golf architect and North Shore homeowner Robert Trent Jones Jr. remarked that the 1971 master plan covenant should continue to be respected for years to come, with no expiration date.
“Starwood ultimately heard the community,” Jones said. “They’re invested, and therefore it’s a win-win for the community. It’s a unique master plan which should be respected by the community, and apparently is being respected.”
But what residents see as a fight for open space continues.
The organization Save Open Space Hui, previously Save Our Space, formed early on in the proposal process, updating residents of developments from board and community meetings.
“This has been a wake-up call for us all, and a reminder of how important it is for the residents of Kaua‘i to band together to protect open space,” the hui said in a statement Tuesday. “Open space is a critical contributor to Kaua‘i’s continuing good health and welfare, and open spaces are key to maintaining the amazing quality of life for residents and visitors alike.”
However, the hui remained hesitant to see this as a full win.
“Starwood Capital Group is still looking for a way to provide a hefty return to its investors, so while the spectre of glamping on the North Shore appears to be over for the moment, Kaua‘i must be prepared to respond to the next developers’ promises of investment returns at the expense of Kaua‘i’s citizens,” the hui statement continued.
”We are not Disneyland, and we do not want to be merely a way for investors to line their pockets.”
This article was updated on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, for clarity.
Sabrina Bodon, editor, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.
published 2021-12-01 17:05:00