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City issues violation notice to Ko Olina Resort for parking closure

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The months-long closure of public parking lots that provide access to the Ko Olina Resort’s lagoons is a violation of the resort’s Special Management Area Minor Permit and must be corrected immediately, the City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting said Thursday.

“The (2016/SMA-28) Special Management Area Minor Permit requires that the electronic gates that control vehicular traffic at the public parking areas at Lagoons 1 through 4 not be utilized to restrict public access to the parking areas and lagoons,” the city wrote in a notice of violation issued today.

An inspection of the premises found the electronic gates to the parking lots were closed and, together with “heavy duty plastic” barricades, blocked “public access to the lagoon public parking areas,” resulting in “beach access denial to the lagoons,” according to DPP inspector Paul Zacharias, who signed the notice for the director of DPP.

The resort was asked to cure the violations immediately by removing the barricades and restoring the electronic-arm gate system to working order, completing all work “within 0 days from the date of this notice (Oct. 8).”

If no action was taken within that time, civil fines would be imposed and the matter “may be referred to the Prosecuting Attorney and/or Corporation Counsel for appropriate action,” the notice said.

“We are working with the City in regards to the notice received Thursday,” Sweetie Nelson, Ko Olina Resort director of destination marketing, said in an email reply to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s request for comment.

Nelson added the resort’s motive for closing the public parking areas in March, when its hotels, restaurants and shops closed, was to protect public safety. When beaches were reopened by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the lagoon beaches were reopened to the public but the lagoon parking lots remained closed.

The motivation behind the plan Ko Olina Resort announced Tuesday, which would reopen the public parking lot for Lagoon 4 Nov. 1, and dedicate Lagoon 4 exclusively for public use and Lagoons 1,2, and 3 for private hotel and condo use, was “to create the safest environment possible for our employees to return to” during a phased-in business reopening, Nelson said.

She said this is the first time in nearly 30 years Ko Olina has closed free public access to its lagoons and apologized for the inconvenience.

“This is a temporary solution,” Nelson said.

The resort’s plan stated that all 180 public parking stalls and all four lagoons would reopen to the public Feb. 1.

Also Thursday, the Ko Olina Community Association announced that the public boat ramp in Ko Olina Marina, which has been closed to the public since late March, will reopen at 6 a.m. Monday.

For reservations to launch or to finalize boat registration documents, “boaters should contact the Ko Olina Aloha Team at (808) 676-6547,” the email said.

Waikele resident Rodney Ajifu, a longtime recreational boater in the area who has used the Ko Olina public ramp since 2015, said its reopening was cause for joy not only for himself but “most importantly for the younger generation to have the ability to fish out of Ko Olina.”

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