Plan for homeless camp in Kona moves forward

  • 6074414_web1_Proposed-Homeless_0018.jpg

KAILUA-KONA — The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday approved a management right of entry for Hawaii County onto a parcel of land known as Village 9, which Mayor Harry Kim plans to use first as a temporary homeless camp before developing it into a long-term housing site replete with social services for Kona’s homeless population.

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KAILUA-KONA — The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday approved a management right of entry for Hawaii County onto a parcel of land known as Village 9, which Mayor Harry Kim plans to use first as a temporary homeless camp before developing it into a long-term housing site replete with social services for Kona’s homeless population.

The BLNR’s decision paves the way for both county initiatives to become realities, allowing for immediate entry to 5 acres of the 35-acre parcel located near the West Hawaii Civic Center and Kealakehe High School.

The decision also included approval of an executive order that will transfer ownership of the full parcel from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, a branch of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — a necessary transition for the county’s long-term site plan.

“The executive order itself will take time,” said Roy Takemoto, an executive assistant to Kim who takes the lead on most county development projects. “But in the meantime, they have an immediate authority for HHFDC to issue a right of entry to the county.”

He added the 15- to 20-acre permanent development, likely still years away, will be good to go as long as the HHFDC meets the requirements for the transfer, which Takemoto expects to happen.

A few dozen homeless people were evicted from Old Kona Airport Park in August and now reside at Camp Kikaha, a homeless encampment situated in the middle of the Old Kona Industrial Area in Kailua-Kona. The camp, however, added some stresses on the business community in what is otherwise a commercial area, prompting the county’s search for a new solution.

The county’s answer came in the form of the Village 9 plan, which will essentially transfer the open-air encampment mauka, out of the industrial area while also expanding it. Officials say the temporary 5-acre site could accommodate up to 100 homeless individuals.

A parking area will be included for homeless people who reside in their vehicles. Running water and restroom facilities will be brought online at the site before any homeless people arrive.

Eventually, igloo-type structures costing about $11,000-$12,000 each will crop up throughout the area, which will be segmented and provide housing for men, women and families. The permanent site is expected to accommodate up to 300 homeless individuals.

Outreach facilities primarily focused on basic services, substance abuse counseling and mental health care will accompany the permanent project.

The igloo housing structures might precede development of the permanent site to allow for more privacy and security among temporary residents.

The next phase of development is an environmental assessment. Takemoto said there might have been exemptions allowing the county to forgo that process, as a previous EA was done at the site and might have covered the county’s intended use.

However, he added the county thought it was prudent to conduct an EA for two reasons. The first is that a small portion of the parcel serves as a critical habitat for the endangered uhiuhi plant.

“The second reason for the EA is to give the community an opportunity to express their concerns,” Takemoto explained. “We know the community does have concerns with having homeless in their backyard.”

The EA is likely to begin by November and will cover plans for the temporary and permanent sites. Takemoto expects the EA will have progressed enough to allow for community meetings in January. If all goes according to plan, he said work to prepare the land for the temporary site might begin as early as February.

The county’s flexibility to expedite the EA is possible because it will “piggyback,” Takemoto said, on a separate EA required for the proposed Kealakehe Regional Park, the site of which is adjacent to the Village 9 parcel.

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“Because we’re rushing on this homeless (EA), we will also kick off the assessment for the regional park and get that going at the same time,” Takemoto said. “It’s something that was just a fortunate opportunity. It was something Parks and Rec knew they had to do but it was not a real high priority. Because of this homeless project, it became a priority.”

Email Max Dible at mdible@westhawaiitoday.com.

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Plan for homeless camp in Kona moves forward

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Honokohau Harbor can be seen from a parcel of land off Kealakehe Parkway, Mayor Harry Kim’s proposed site for an emergency homeless encampment.

KAILUA-KONA — The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday approved a management right of entry for Hawaii County onto a parcel of land known as Village 9, which Mayor Harry Kim plans to use first as a temporary homeless camp before developing it into a long-term housing site replete with social services for Kona’s homeless population.

The BLNR’s decision paves the way for both county initiatives to become realities, allowing for immediate entry to 5 acres of the 35-acre parcel located near the West Hawaii Civic Center and Kealakehe High School.

ADVERTISING


The decision also included approval of an executive order that will transfer ownership of the full parcel from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, a branch of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — a necessary transition for the county’s long-term site plan.

“The executive order itself will take time,” said Roy Takemoto, an executive assistant to Kim who takes the lead on most county development projects. “But in the meantime, they have an immediate authority for HHFDC to issue a right of entry to the county.”

He added the 15- to 20-acre permanent development, likely still years away, will be good to go as long as the HHFDC meets the requirements for the transfer, which Takemoto expects to happen.

A few dozen homeless people were evicted from Old Kona Airport Park in August and now reside at Camp Kikaha, a homeless encampment situated in the middle of the Old Kona Industrial Area in Kailua-Kona. The camp, however, added some stresses on the business community in what is otherwise a commercial area, prompting the county’s search for a new solution.

The county’s answer came in the form of the Village 9 plan, which will essentially transfer the open-air encampment mauka, out of the industrial area while also expanding it. Officials say the temporary 5-acre site could accommodate up to 100 homeless individuals.

A parking area will be included for homeless people who reside in their vehicles. Running water and restroom facilities will be brought online at the site before any homeless people arrive.

Eventually, igloo-type structures costing about $11,000-$12,000 each will crop up throughout the area, which will be segmented and provide housing for men, women and families. The permanent site is expected to accommodate up to 300 homeless individuals.

Outreach facilities primarily focused on basic services, substance abuse counseling and mental health care will accompany the permanent project.

The igloo housing structures might precede development of the permanent site to allow for more privacy and security among temporary residents.

The next phase of development is an environmental assessment. Takemoto said there might have been exemptions allowing the county to forgo that process, as a previous EA was done at the site and might have covered the county’s intended use.

However, he added the county thought it was prudent to conduct an EA for two reasons. The first is that a small portion of the parcel serves as a critical habitat for the endangered uhiuhi plant.

“The second reason for the EA is to give the community an opportunity to express their concerns,” Takemoto explained. “We know the community does have concerns with having homeless in their backyard.”

The EA is likely to begin by November and will cover plans for the temporary and permanent sites. Takemoto expects the EA will have progressed enough to allow for community meetings in January. If all goes according to plan, he said work to prepare the land for the temporary site might begin as early as February.

The county’s flexibility to expedite the EA is possible because it will “piggyback,” Takemoto said, on a separate EA required for the proposed Kealakehe Regional Park, the site of which is adjacent to the Village 9 parcel.

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“Because we’re rushing on this homeless (EA), we will also kick off the assessment for the regional park and get that going at the same time,” Takemoto said. “It’s something that was just a fortunate opportunity. It was something Parks and Rec knew they had to do but it was not a real high priority. Because of this homeless project, it became a priority.”

Email Max Dible at mdible@westhawaiitoday.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.