For now, members of the Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association and the Kona Sailing Club can breathe a little easier.
After a public response over the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ planned request to authorize the sale of leases held by each organization at public auction, both agenda items were withdrawn at Friday morning’s Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting.
“Most definitely there’s a sense of relief,” said Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association (HIPA) member Eddie Hayward, who posted a video to social media on Monday bringing light to the situation. “When the community comes together, it shows good things can come. The people in the community are happy.”
Public opposition also reached West Hawaii’s representation in the state legislature; Senate majority leader Dru Kanuha (D-Kona, Ka’u) pressed the board to defer action on both agenda items.
The withdrawal effectively delays any action DLNR could take regarding the future of the sites at Honokohau Harbor in North Kona. HIPA and the Kona Sailing Club (KSC) each hold revocable permits adjacent to each other at Honokohau Harbor.
Both organizations now have additional time to gain 501(c)3 nonprofit status from the IRS. According to HRS §171-43.1, BLNR may directly negotiate a lease with organizations certified by the IRS as either a 501(c)1 or 501(c)3 without recourse to public auction. Such a negotiation could satisfy both DLNR’s stated directive to convert revocable permits to long-term arrangements and allow HIPA and KSC to remain at their current locations.
In his communication with the IRS, HIPA vice president Steve Arnett said he was advised the potential wait before 501(c)3 status is granted could be up to six months. After Friday’s withdrawal, he’s optimistic any action by DLNR will be deferred until then.
“That’s our fervent hope,” said Arnett. “I can’t thank our supporters enough. We had an amazing groundswell of support from the community. It was so gratifying and overwhelming to see that community benefit finally trumped money.”