Alii Drive development project moves forward

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Those stuck in traffic on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona might find this hard to believe, but the number of vehicles using the road actually decreased during the past few years.

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Those stuck in traffic on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona might find this hard to believe, but the number of vehicles using the road actually decreased during the past few years.

That’s according to Ron Thiel, Traffic Division chief for the county Department of Public Works. His report to the County Council came Tuesday as the body debated and passed a time extension for a development that will add 58 new homes to the area.

Some neighbors expressed concerns that the development will add more traffic, but their views weren’t enough to dissuade the council from moving the project forward.

“I think the whole little town of Kona will be affected,” said Terry Allio, who, with her husband, Mike, lives across the street from the proposed development. “It’s going to really ruin the little town that we know and love.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the project on the first of two readings. North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter voted yes with reservations.

The council members cited congestion concerns as the reason for their reservations.

“I’m trying to make sure we don’t further jam up traffic,” Eoff said.

The development will be on the hook for as much as $793,000, or $13,672 per lot, in fair share contributions; money that can go toward roads, parks, police and fire protection and solid waste.

But, as counterintuitive as it might seem, Alii Drive traffic has actually dropped, according to a recent traffic count paid for by developer Stanford Carr as a requirement for the time extension.

“Traffic has been decreasing over the years,” Thiel said. “I basically knew it was going to show less traffic as opposed to more traffic.”

Thiel said the installation of four-way stop signs has cut down on drivers using the roadway as a through street. Adding mauka-makai connectors such as Lako Street should further reduce the burden on the popular roadway, he said.

Alii Palms is slated for an approximately 10-acre parcel on the mauka side of Alii Drive, between the Alii Lani Condominium and the Alii Garden Marketplace and across from the Kona By the Sea and Kona Riviera Villas condominium complexes. The developers plan single-family homes for the subdivision.

Carr said the development, which could begin construction within 18 months and be at full build-out a year or 18 months later, is needed in the area. The low inventory of homes is causing housing prices to rise, he said.

The project was taken over by Carr’s company in 2014 after the development sat idle following a 2004 rezoning.

Council Chairman Dru Kanuha, whose district the project is in, said Alii Palms is just one of a number of developments that already were rezoned but then languished during the recession. Now that the economy has improved, he expects more to be revived.

Kanuha said Alii Drive doesn’t have just vehicular traffic. It also has bicycles and runners and parked cars that have to be taken into account. Still, he supports the development.

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“This is part of the urban core,” he said. “We want people to live there.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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