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Development proposed for one of Hawaii's black sand beaches is drawing backlash

Not so fast. A condominium and conference center development is being proposed for one of Hawaii's famous black sand beaches, but some local islanders are opposed to the idea.

They don't want the area to become a resort with numerous tennis courts.

In addition to being an amazing natural resource, Punaluu's black sand beach is home to the endangered loggerhead sea turtles. Developers have tried to more than halfway accommodate villagers' protests by reducing the original proposal from nearly 3,000 to 225 units.

The developers say they have already invested more than $1 million in the project, including redeveloping the property. Since the 1960s, various developers have had the idea of ​​converting the area into a mixed-use complex.

But some locals say they don't want development on what they see as untouched land.

“Our Punaluu lahui (group) were the stewards of this place,” said Maxx Phillips, Hawaii director and staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a legal intervention against the plan.

The original plans called for a boat ramp, restaurants and a wellness center.

“Threatening to destroy the landscape is like a threat to the family because our land is our ohana (family),” said resident Nohealani Kaawa.

In addition to cultural concerns, the community also wants to consider environmental issues.

“They haven’t even fulfilled the kuleana (responsibilities) that they already have,” Phillips said.

Developers claim this is the “smallest footprint required to bring money into the local economy and responsibly manage these areas.”

Some residents support the project because it will create more jobs. A special hearing was scheduled for Monday, May 6.

Hawaii is still reeling from last year's devastating wildfires.


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