A proposal by the Miami investment firm redeveloping the former Princeville resort and adjoining Makai Golf Club has stirred new controversy by proposing a 50-unit luxury camping resort that would be built, to open in 2022, on three holes of one of the property’s two golf courses. The proposal, which has still not been announced publicly, was disclosed by media coverage in late August. It has drawn vicious attacks from Princeville residents who, among other things, accuse Starwood Capital Group, the investment firm, with threatening local homeowners. The new resort would offer glamping — short for “glamorous camping” — in luxury tents in a complex that would also have a restaurant, spa and commercial building. Nightly rates would be in the $500-and-up range. The resort would be built on just over 50 acres currently included in three of the nine holes of the Woods Course, a layout mostly used by budget-conscious local golfers. The course and a more upscale 18-hole layout make up the Makai Golf Club. The golf properties together occupy about 290 acres that has remained open space under terms of a three-paragraph document signed in 1972. The document — technically called a dedication letter — guarantees that the golf course land is to remain open space until February 2026. At that point, however, the dedication expires, theoretically opening up a vast swath of Princeville to new development.
“The idea is to create a very-attractive-looking tent structure that will be well immersed into the landscape and really fit into the North Shore of Kaua‘i,” said Hall. The glamping units would have an average of 460 square feet. While most of the units would have a single king-sized bed, others might be large enough for families to be guests. The plan also includes a new, 80-to-100-seat restaurant, a very large “event tent,” as well as massage facilities and a “commercial building” whose exact purposes were not described. East West said they plan to open the glamping resort in the first or second quarter of 2022. The “commercial space” is likely to take 12 months to build, and the glamping units six months. Residents objected that the schedule means that construction noise and other problems could begin sometime in 2021.
It remains unclear, however, how long it would take East West and Starwood to negotiate the county planning process. Aggressive resistance is expected. Al Albergate, president of the Princeville Community Association, said it has retained counsel, and will disclose the association’s position on the legality of the glamping project at another community meeting tentatively set for Saturday, Sept. 26. Several residents, including attorneys and non-attorneys, said protracted litigation is almost certain.
The 1972 document has remained little known until the last few weeks. Princeville residents have said they were never made aware of the expiration of the open-space guarantee when they purchased their homes. For a variety of technical legal reasons, the document does not appear to have been discovered in hundreds of title searches for Princeville homes over the last four decades. Starwood Capital has said it can move forward immediately with construction of the glamping resort under terms of the 1972 letter, which permits the acreage to be used for golf or “ancillary recreational uses.” The document in question is a mere three paragraphs. It was originally executed by the Eagle County Development Corp., based in Colorado, the original developer of Princeville. In 1980, a one-paragraph amendment conveyed the development rights to the Princeville Corp. As it stands, the 1972 letter applies to all land that makes up the total of 27 holes on two golf courses. On Thursday, Starwood’s representatives said the company is willing to execute a new determination letter permanently placing the 18-hole course that is the principal component of the Makai Golf Club into open-space status. However, the company has apparently not taken action to execute that new determination.
The Thursday meeting’s participants included several residents who are either practicing or retired attorneys. They attacked Starwood’s interpretation of the language and inaccurate use of the word “ancillary.” The arrangement is unusual among planned golf-course communities, land-use experts said, because the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association is powerless to prevent development on the golf course acreage after Feb. 28, 2026, even though dozens — if not hundreds — of nearby homes have been thought for decades to be golf-course properties permanently immune to development intrusion. Article written by Allan Parachini Special to The Garden Island.