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Hawaii Considers Change to Oceanfront Building Rules

Oceanfront parcel at One Puako Bay (MLS# 215500) is 6.76 acres of quiet black sand

A year ago, I wrote a primer on the topic of what someone buying oceanfront property in Hawai’i needs to know. In it I explained that “conservation” is the land use designation generally applied to coastal lands. Now, for the first time in 16 years, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is reviewing the rules pertaining to areas zoned conservation. The most significant proposal would specify the shoreline building setback to be 40 feet from the certified shoreline PLUS 70 times the average annual coastal erosion rate. (The public comment period lasts until September 7th if you have an interest and want to register your opinion).

Just for review, as the listing agent quite correctly commented on my blog post about her multi-parcel oceanfront listing in Niulii (MLS# 229636), if a parcel is ONLY zoned conservation, a single residential structure of up to 5,000 square feet is permissible. If the parcel has more than one zoning, for example if it is a larger acreage that is primarily zoned agricultural except for an oceanfront band zoned conservation, the owner can build only in the non-conservation portion and in that case the zoning and building standards applicable to that classification would apply.

Oceanfront Estate at Puakea Bay Ranch (MLS# 232548) could not be replicated today

The property to which the current rules and the 1994 deliberations might be attributed coincidentally happens to be on the market today. This oceanfront estate, situated within the gated community of Puakea Bay Ranch near Hawi on the Big Island, is listed at $13,750,000 (MLS# 232548). For that, the buyer will get a genuine estate property: over 11,000 sq, feet of living space including 6 bedrooms in the main house, another 3 bedrooms in the poolside guest house, and a separate caretaker suite.

For the fitness enthusiast, the property has both a pool and tennis court with whale-watching ocean views, and fitness rooms in both the master suite and the guest residence. The estate is on almost 5 acres, but to make the picture truly complete, the adjacent 10 acre lot could also be purchased and transformed into an equestrian center (well, that would be my dream, anyway). The history is complicated, but the bottom line is simple: it would not be possible to build this oceanfront estate today.

The buyer of a property like this is someone in search of a different lifestyle than the front-row buyer at Kukio or Hualalai (new on the market MLS# 237310), or even the oceanfront buyer at 49 Black Sand Beach in Mauna Lani Resort (like MLS# 203139) or a beachfront lot at Naupaka Place (MLS# 233826) in Waikoloa Beach Resort).

The typical buyer at Kukio wants world-class amenities, plays a lot of golf, wants to walk to fine dining in a resort environment where all the employees know them by name. The oceanfront buyer looking at the handful of $10+ million estate properties in North Kohala wants true seclusion and doesn’t worry about hiring the right staff to manage their own property. The oceanfront acreage buyer probably has something different yet in mind, a smaller footprint in a pristine rural location where their interaction is more likely to be with long-time local residents than with other members of the business and social sphere they inhabit in their off-island life.

The Hawaii Life team has been fortunate enough to represent buyers and sellers with each of these profiles. Contact me if you want help to figure out which oceanfront property is the best fit for you. We also may know properties not currently on the market that would be available for the right buyer, so don’t hesitate to ask.

A hui hou,

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)
Direct: 808.443.4588 
Email: beth@hawaiilife.com

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David Buck

August 31, 2010

Great info. Beth. I’ve seen 2 examples here on Oahu where buyers tore down old oceanfront homes in Diamond Head in the last few years, where their view plains were dramatically reduced w/ new setback of 40 ft. If this is increased, buyers better be aware…

David Buck

August 31, 2010

Great info. Beth. I’ve seen 2 examples here on Oahu where buyers tore down old oceanfront homes in Diamond Head in the last few years, where their view plains were dramatically reduced w/ new setback of 40 ft. If this is increased, buyers better be aware…

Beth Robinson R(S)

August 31, 2010

David, it is good to have these concrete examples. Personally, I think the setbacks make sense as our 2006 earthquake demonstrated to a number of oceanfront owners including at Mauna Kea resort. Natural events aside, here on the Big Island most of the oceanfront on the west side is part of the Ala Kahakai trail system and the new setback will provide oceanfront owners with a bit more privacy relative to the trail.

Beth Robinson R(S)

August 31, 2010

David, it is good to have these concrete examples. Personally, I think the setbacks make sense as our 2006 earthquake demonstrated to a number of oceanfront owners including at Mauna Kea resort. Natural events aside, here on the Big Island most of the oceanfront on the west side is part of the Ala Kahakai trail system and the new setback will provide oceanfront owners with a bit more privacy relative to the trail.

Katie Minkus, R(B), Broker-in-Charge Big Island Sales

August 31, 2010

This is exactly why our Puako listing is so valuable – the house is already built within 10-15 feet of the ocean, and if a buyer knocks it down, the County will push the structure back. But if a buyer remodels instead, they can keep the footprint and be that close to the water. It pays to think through the consequences before knocking down any structures oceanfront in Hawaii.

Katie Minkus, R(B), Broker-in-Charge Big Island Sales

August 31, 2010

This is exactly why our Puako listing is so valuable – the house is already built within 10-15 feet of the ocean, and if a buyer knocks it down, the County will push the structure back. But if a buyer remodels instead, they can keep the footprint and be that close to the water. It pays to think through the consequences before knocking down any structures oceanfront in Hawaii.

larro

October 9, 2010

Beth i own harry kims old 1980 ocean front lot at Vacationland, half of it is underwater at high tide, can I build anything on it?

larro

October 9, 2010

Beth i own harry kims old 1980 ocean front lot at Vacationland, half of it is underwater at high tide, can I build anything on it?

Beth Robinson R(B)

October 10, 2010

Hi Larro,
Vacationland is a bit far out of my geographic reach so I’m not familiar with the lot. Whether or not you can build will depend on your zoning and how much of the parcel is on dry ground. Do you have plans drawn to build?
Aloha
Beth

Beth Robinson R(B)

October 10, 2010

Hi Larro,
Vacationland is a bit far out of my geographic reach so I’m not familiar with the lot. Whether or not you can build will depend on your zoning and how much of the parcel is on dry ground. Do you have plans drawn to build?
Aloha
Beth

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