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Coco Palms hotel's reopening delayed due to fitness center plan
By Tom Finnegan / tfinnegan@starbulletin.com

July 14, 2007

WAILUA, Kauai >>> The last Kauai hotel still shuttered by 1992's Hurricane Iniki suffered a permitting setback, and its reopening will be delayed, officials announced this week.

Coco Palms, site of the famous wedding scene in Elvis Presley's film "Blue Hawaii" and the home of the last reigning queen of Kauai, has been denied a special management use permit to build a spa and fitness center near the abandoned tennis courts.

The Kauai Planning Commission, which formalized its ruling Tuesday, said the fitness center is not an appropriate use for the land, which is zoned for open use. The commissioners decided Coco Palms developers should find other locations or designs for the facility on their 18.8-acre parcel.

"Coco Palms Ventures LLC is extremely disappointed with the Planning Commission's recent decision," said Phillip Ross, a principal owner of Coco Palms Ventures, in an e-mail. "This decision will definitely have an adverse affect on the future of Coco Palms."

Coco Palms was set to open next summer with 200 luxury condo units, 104 hotel units, retail shops and restaurants.

Ross said there will be a delay to construction and the opening, but he gave no indication whether they would appeal the decision to Circuit Court or start designing a new facility. He said they had already spent $500,000 on design and planning, with an assurance from the planning department that the center was "an appropriate use of the property."

What rankles Ross and his fellow owners, he said, is that the same use of the property was approved on two prior occasions, in 1985 and 2000.

The fitness center was originally to be part of the main building, but the commission's concerns about the main building's height led to the move to a new site.

According to the commission, however, the developers agreed to keep that area as "outdoor recreation" and reduce the size of the facility. The fitness center, they said, has no community benefit and is an expansion of the facility.

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