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Facebook founder, wife spent years building relationships before 2nd Kauai land buy

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, recently purchased an additional 600 acres of land on Kauai.

They now own more than 1,300 acres on the island.

According to documents from the state Bureau of Conveyances, the couple purchased nearly 600 acres in front of Larsen’s Beach in March next to their existing property.

They bought the land from Waioli Corp., a non-profit that owns multiple museums and historic buildings and lands.

The access road and trail leading to Larsen’s Beach is still owned by the county and the public beach will remain accessible.

“After much consideration and careful deliberation, the Waioli Corp. has chosen to sell its property at Lepeuli,” Waioli Corp. said in a statement. “We have seen Mark and Priscilla’s dedication over the years to land conservation, protecting native species, and working to preserve the natural beauty of Kauai. We know that this land will remain in their trusted hands and that Mark and Priscilla will act as responsible stewards of Lepeuli today and in the future.”

The new addition cost the couple $53 million.

It’s next to the 750 acres Zuckerberg and Chan acquired in 2014 for $100 million.

In 2016, in an attempt to secure the privacy of his property, Zuckerberg arranged quiet title lawsuits that forced kuleana landowners to sell their properties to him.

He dropped those lawsuits after community backlash. He also built a wall that stirred up controversy.

But community leaders said his reputation has come a long way.

“I like to say that the people of Kauai have benefited from Zuckerberg’s generosity during this COVID-19 crisis,” said Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami. “They contributed significantly to our Rise to Work program. They purchased a few mobile labs that we can use for testing and vaccines.”

State Rep. Nadine Nakamura agrees Zuckerberg’s presence has been a positive one.

“I think the good thing is that in purchasing the 600 acres, they are going to continue the legacy of conservation and continue the cattle ranching that’s taking place on these lands,” Nakamura said.

To buy the land, Zuckerberg and Chan followed the terms set by Waioli Corp. That included preserving agriculture and protecting native species and the natural beauty of the property.

According to the couple’s newest next door neighbor, Steve Frailey, Zuckerberg and Chan have been quiet and respectful.

“I’ve seen what they do, and I appreciate what they do,” Frailey said. “Because they’re sustainable. They’re just protecting the land.”

Frailey operates Hawaiian Organic Noni. He has 70 acres next to the couple’s newly acquired property and said from what he’s seen, the couple is dedicated to conservation efforts.

“Waioli Corp. could have sold that to anybody who wanted to develop it,” Frailey said. “There could have been a hotel there because it’s a beautiful beach overlooking it. He’s not doing that. So to me, it’s good that he bought it because there won’t be another developer.”

But anytime a billionaire buys up a large portion of land, there’s concern that there are fewer opportunities for locals.

“I will say whenever we have big tracts of land change hands, it’s a little unsettling,” said Kauai County Council member Felicia Cowden. “It’s been a big pattern on our island to have a lot of purchases by quite a bit of wealth. So that’s a little difficult.”

Cowden also voiced concerns about the shortage of housing in Kauai. But other community leaders said that property wouldn’t be ideal for affordable housing in the first place.

“On our end, the government is trying to do everything that we can to create affordable housing opportunities,” Kawakami said. “Those particular parcels of property that he’s purchasing wouldn’t be the prime place to put affordable housing.”

“That’s agricultural land, so in a way, local people could not afford agricultural condos,” said Nakamura. “It wouldn’t have been for local people. It would have been for outsiders coming in and not for local residents who really need affordable housing.”

But neighbors hope that the property will be in good hands.

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