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Planning Commission hosts public hearing on KS’ Kahalu‘u Ma Kai Special Management Area Use permit

On September 17, The Hawai‘i County Leeward Planning Commission will take public testimony relating to Kamehameha Schools’ request for a Special Management Area Use (SMA) permit which would allow the trust to redevelop its Kahalu‘u Ma Kai site into an educational piko (hub) in West Hawai‘i.

Issuance of an SMA permit would signify Hawai‘i County’s confidence in Kamehameha Schools’ commitment to protect surrounding environmental resources during the removal of a seven-story hotel structure and subsequent development of an educational complex.

“Getting the County’s blessing on an SMA permit would mark a significant step toward realizing Kamehameha Schools’ vision for a 21st-century learning destination in West Hawai‘i,” said Kā‘eo Duarte, Kamehameha Schools’ Vice President of Community Engagement and Resources.

In its SMA application, the Schools proposes to redevelop the 22.73-acre property and change its primary use from resort to an educational complex. Doing so would allow the site to support a wide variety of educational users and programming changing the previous landscape from visitor-oriented to one that is focused on education.

The project represents a fundamental strategy of the Schools’ new Strategic Plan to employ a regional community-based approach that aims to increase community collaborations to impact educational outcomes in nine identified regions, including West Hawai‘i.

In alignment with its strategic plan, Kamehameha Schools’ application cites three reasons for the change in land use:

  1. Greater alignment and partnership with the State DOE, charter schools and the University of Hawai‘i system
  2. Create world-class outdoor, project- and ‘āina-based learning opportunities that incorporate science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM)
  3. Greater support for college and career counseling and preparation


“Kahalu‘u Ma Kai is a significant project that can support our efforts to work closely with the community toward broad-based change to improve educational outcomes for Hawai‘i’s learners,” said Duarte.

The SMA permit approval process would culminate with a decisional meeting of the County of Hawaii Leeward Planning Commission, possibly in October.

An approved SMA would move the educational project on to ministerial permitting and other regulatory requirement processes including approvals of an Archaeological Inventory Survey and a U.S. Department of Army permit.

Anyone interested in attending the hearing or submitting testimony on Kamehameha Schools’ permit application may visit www.ksbe.edu/kahaluumakai.