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Hilo charter school’s building plans hit permit snag

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HILO >> A hearing officer has advised the Hawaii County Planning Commission to deny a special permit to a Hilo charter school that wants to build a new campus.

Ted Hong, a lawyer for Connections New Century Public Charter School, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that he expects the county’s Windward Planning Commission will accept the recommendation and deny the permit at its May 1 meeting. The school will appeal that decision to the 3rd Circuit Court, he said.

The school wants to build a new school and dormitories on 70 acres of agricultural land it was given by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Plans for the school have been in the works since 2006.

The report by the hearing officer, Sandra Song, states that at full build-out, the campus would need more water than it could access.

Hong disputed that finding.

“Every governmental agency, including the water department, took a look at this project and said it was fine. … It doesn’t take into account changes in technology, in regards to water usage,” Hong said. “It doesn’t take into account the fact this is one of the wettest areas around Hilo, and we could use it to, for instance, flush the toilets. That’s why I say this is going to go to the Circuit Court.”

The school’s principal, John Thatcher, said he was “flabbergasted” when he saw the report.

“I sat through all those hearings, and I was amazed she came up with those conclusions,” he said.

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