County nixes purchase of parcels inundated by lava during 2018 eruption

Hawaii County’s land conservation program, known by its acronym PONC, will save a few bucks by nixing the purchase of properties now covered by lava.

The County Council authorized purchase of the two parcels, totaling 322 acres, in 2013. The deal would have included the Kapoho tide pools and a large adjacent lot, both of which were covered by lava from the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

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Hamana Ventura, county property manager, said the deal fell through when the state, which was providing matching funds, backed out after the coastal area was inundated.

The county negotiated a purchase price of $2.7 million. The contract made the purchase contingent on the state contributing $1.3 million, county officials have said.

Last year, Mayor Harry Kim said the county should back out of the deal, but it was up to the state to make that call.

Ventura confirmed last week that the state rescinded the funds, though he said the county would have backed out of the deal either way.

“We still would have found grounds,” he said.

The county’s share would have came from the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation fund.

The then-coastal proprieties are owned by the Vacation Land Trust (37.7 acres) and Kahi Inc. (284 acres).

The state’s business registration records lists Glenn Hara, a retired Hilo Circuit Court judge, and Gregory Abe as officers of Kahi Inc.

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The PONC program is funded with 2 percent of the county’s annual property tax income.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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