KAHUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Kahuku Village Association owns 71 plantation homes with some 300 residents on land owned by Continental Pacific.
The two seemed to get along fine until last week, when a letter arrived on residents' doorsteps, telling them that the Florida-based landowner was ending its contract with the association, effective July 31.
"I kinda thought maybe this was a fraud thing, you know," said longtime tenant Doris Lagua, "somebody just putting this out and just making story. So I called the KVA and they said we just got notice that this is what's happening."
The letter also came as a surprise to the association.
"It's like buying something, and you go to pick it up, and there's two chains on the door and it says, 'sorry, we're out of business,'" said Jim Leonardi, a tenant in another part of Kahuku Village and the vice president of the association's board. "That's the way this letter made us feel."
Jesse Schiel, an attorney and spokesperson for Continental Pacific, said the company wants to negotiate individual leases with the tenants instead of going through the association.
"Continental and many of the residents there required some flexibility that I think will be better accomplished through individual leases, as far as the improvements that need to be made to the village and to many of the homes there," Schiel said.
The KVA believes that the landowner's financial problems may be one reason for the change. In the letter to tenants, Continental Pacific said it would continue the lease for Kahuku Hospital, but it is trying to sell the Kahuku Golf Course, which it leases to the city.
The prospect of individual leases has some residents fearing that their affordable rents for their 1930's era plantation homes will go up substantially. But Continental Pacific said it wants to keep the rents at current levels.
"That's my understanding," Schiel said, "but that will depend in part of the KVA's response as well."
The association said it is considering buying the land from Continental Pacific.
"Well, since the letter came from attorneys, our attorneys have responded back," said Kahuku Village Association manager Debbie Sarsona. "We put something on the table and we're waiting to hear back."
Continental Pacific said it has heard from some of the tenants, and is willing to meet with them individually. Meantime, the association said it plans to hold a meeting next month with the tenants.