LANAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - Plans to build a controversial third resort on Lana'i have been removed from a key Maui County planning document, but hundreds of acres of homes, a university campus and film studio are still planned for the island's future.
Pulama Lana'i is the company founded by billionaire Larry Ellison, who bought most of the island in 2012.
The company originally planned to build a 20-acre, 100-unit luxury resort and up to 50 5-acre homes along an undeveloped coastline in an area called Halepalaoa, also known as Club Lanai.
But the Maui County Council planning committee has dropped those projects from the Lana'i Community Plan.
"It think it's a good thing for our community. That was never really a very good idea. That was a beautiful part of the island, untouched, dirt road," said Lana'i community activist Robin Kaye, who's been living on the island full-time for 10 years and off-an-on before that since 1974.
The dirt road illustrates the lack of infrastructure on that side of the island, so Pulama Lana'i would have had to spend huge amounts of money to build a roadway as well as install electricity, water and sewer systems before it built anything else there.
"It's a very windy place with a very chocolate-y beach. So besides ruining the isolation and beauty of the place, it would not have been a very attractive place for tourists," Kaye added.
The Maui County Council Planning committee removed the resort and shoreline homes from the plan draft after hearing testimony from longtime Lana'i residents who said when previous owner and developer David Murdock began plans to develop the first two resorts there in the 1980s, his company promised not to build on the Eastern shore.
"There was an agreement that you can build on the West side as long as you leave the East side alone. And that's the way it's been for a while," said Maui County Council Planning Chair Don Couch.
Couch said the current developers, Pulama Lana'i , did not object when he asked them what their reaction was to removing the resort and housing from the plan, so his committee removed it from the planning draft.
"It was pretty heart-felt testimony saying, 'Hey look, we made a deal. You develop over here, you leave this side alone for hunting and cultural stuff,'" Couch said.
A spokeswoman for Pulama Lana'i declined comment.
While the resort and luxury homes on the Eastern side of Lana'i have been scrapped, the plan still calls for big development on the small island.
Among the projects: 600 acres of new homes in the Lana'i City area, along with a 500-acre university and research institute, a 50-acre tennis academy with dormitories and a 20-acre film studio.
In the Manele area, another 180 acres worth of homes are planned, all of them projects that could develop in the next decade or so.
The Maui County Council planning committee goes to Lanai on June 23 to hear more testimony before making a final decision on the plan draft, and then the full Council would have to OK the plan after that.
Meanwhile, the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i at Manele Bay temporarily closed Monday to finish renovations and build a new pool complex. The Lodge at Koele has already closed to house construction workers.
Employees at both resorts have been offered jobs at full pay working on cultural, school and environmental projects on Lana'i until they can return to their resort jobs, a company spokeswoman said.
The Manele resort is scheduled to reopen late this year. There is no timetable for reopening the Lodge at Koele, a company spokeswoman said.