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Decision on Coco Palms spa deferred
by Lester Chang - THE GARDEN ISLAND

Posted: Wednesday, Jun 13, 2007 - 10:15:05 pm HST

The Kaua'i Planning Commission Tuesday announced plans to meet July 10 to formalize last monthfs decision to reject Coco Palms Venturesf proposed multi-million-dollar spa and health facility at the revitalized Coco Palms Resort in Wailua.

Meeting at the Lihuee Civic Center, the commission voted to defer action on the May 8 decision because representatives for the developer have yet to review the document, county officials said.

Before the start of Tuesdayfs meeting, Kauaei resident Ken Taylor said the planning commission made the right decision in denying the project.

gI believe the rules and regulations donft allow development in the open district,h he said. gIt is a sensitive area. There are other areas that are acceptable.h

The Coco Palms Resort, once an icon of Polynesian hospitality in Hawaiei in the 1950s and 1960s, was severely damaged by Hurricane eIniki in 1992 and has been closed since, though tours still visit parts of the property.

Coco Palms Ventures sought permits to build the project on old tennis courts at the northern end of the resort away from new hotel buildings. The developer sought more spacious surroundings for the spa to attract well-heeled, world travelers.

But planning department documents that reflect public comments state that the proposed spa should not be put in a county-designated open district, which calls for protection of water and land.

The planning department also said the proposed spa contradicts presentations by the developer, which indicated that the spa would be placed among new resort buildings, and promises that the land for the spa would be donated for Hawaiian culture and educational practices.

County officials said the commissionfs May 8 decision may mean the developer will have to build the spa among centralized resort buildings, as Coco Palms had promised when the commission approved the redevelopment of the resort in January 2005.

At that time, the developer had proposed a 7,316-square-foot spa in the basement of the new gPrincefs Suitesh complex and to keep tennis courts in operation.

Plans included multi-family condominium units, 104 hotel rooms, retail shops, restaurants, offices, assembly rooms, a multi-story parking garage and at least 689 off-street parking spaces.

In March 2005, the commission approved the developerfs request to build an overhead pedestrian bridge over Kuhio Highway to provide safe access for residents and resort guests.

In January 2006, the planning commission conceptually approved revised plans to reduce the number of hotel rooms from 104 to 48.

For the latest project, the developer had proposed a 10,426-square-foot spa and fitness facility with parking for guests and employees.

Officials said the developer can submit similar plans for consideration by the planning department and the planning commission.

Mike Swanson, a consultant for the resort, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Planning department documents recommended that the commission deny the project, stating that Wailua is rich in cultural and historical significance and that the redevelopment project on existing land was appropriate.

The developer argued a precedent had been set for a spa to be built away from buildings when another planning commission in 1985 approved a 4,300-square-foot health spa, a relocated tennis office and a 960-square-foot exercise room. That project, however, never became a reality.

But planners said the proposed expansion of the newest spa is gclearly not outdoor-recreation oriented,h as was the case with the cited example, which proposed to keep nine tennis courts and two practice tennis courts.

The latest projectfs proposed pool and two tennis courts gare accessory to the spa improvements,h the planners said.

Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com

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