Tiny Home Community Proposal Terminated

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

A Seattle couple who recently bought property in Kawela Plantation caused an explosive social media stir among Molokai residents last week when their website, which appeared to promote plans for an “intentional community” of tiny homes that would be built on their property, became widely shared locally.

Their website, theblifemovement.com, has since been taken down, with an apology from the couple and a confirmation that the project is “dead.”

“Molokai has experienced a long history with people coming to our shores, falling in love with our island, and imposing their projects upon our community without first consulting with us, as stewards of our island home,” County Councilmember and Molokai resident Keani Rawlins-Fernandez told The Molokai Dispatch. “Generational Molokaians are the decedents of fierce protectors, and many within our community have expressed disapproval, which is why I’m pleased the proposer for this project is considering its withdrawal.”

Rawlins-Fernandez said she her office had reached out to the couple, and she had plans to talk with them this week, before they removed their website.

Before it was taken down on Friday, theblifemovement.com seemed to solicit like-minded people to join the couple on Molokai, detailing plans for infrastructure and property layout.

“We’re narrowing down the selection of the type and mode of tiny homes that we will be hosting on our property for the members that will be co-housing with us in Molokai,” one of the original blog posts stated.

Molokai residents had a lot to say.

“We have to let them know and everyone who subscribes to their [YouTube] channel that we are against this!” wrote one commenter on a public social media page.

“So much bulls**t I couldn’t stomach to read it all. He will learn the hard way. Molokai has a way of spitting these types of people out,” commented another resident.

Several Kawela Plantation residents stated that the project would not comply with Kawela Plantation Homeowner’s Association’s regulations, though the organization’s board wouldn’t confirm that.

“Kawela Plantation Homeowners’ Association (KPHA) treats all requests for builds the same,” the KPHA board said in a statement when The Molokai Dispatch reached out to them for comment. “Kawela Plantation adheres to KPHA DC & R’s [Declaration of Convenants and Restrictions], By-Laws, Design Committee Rules and Maui County rules and regulations.”

An online petition was started with more than 1,000 signatures protesting the couple’s website’s content.

Longtime resident Brandon Jones wrote an open letter sharing a dose of aloha along with a blunt message of rebuke.

“…The most compassionate thing I can tell you is I am deeply offended by your cavalier misunderstanding of this island, but especially your intent to market it to others far and wide,” Jones wrote to the couple. His letter concluded, “An ‘intentional community’ is not an isolated cell. If you want to really understand what an intentional community is, take down your website, roll up your sleeves and learn the multiple meanings of the word ‘ohana. We already have an intentional community here on Molokai. Compassionately I say we don’t need yours.”

After first posting a clarification saying their project’s intent had been misunderstood, a letter of apology the couple ultimately posted as the website was removed thanked Jones for his “passionate and real” explanation.

In conclusion to the social media saga that brought the project to the forefront, on Sunday the couple posted a final “E Kala Mai,” “where love, compassion and better communications can be the lead to heal.”

“The short story: The bLife Movement project is dead,” the post concluded. “It’s now killed because the people of the land that host us, very quickly and perhaps abruptly decided that it was a potential threat to the equilibrium that makes Molokai being Molokai. Regardless of what was the actual intent behind the project, a simple blog generated enough distrust, rooted in a history that all my family bears no participation in. Therefore, I see no reason to foster a project surrounded by hate and local disapproval.”

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