Here’s a riddle: What is the difference between a marina and a lagoon?

The answer, residents of Ocean Pointe and Hoakalei in Ewa hope, is a lot of money.

That is why they filed a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday against Tokyo-based Haseko, a multi-billion-dollar real estate development firm. Haseko promised potential homeowners real estate next to a vibrant marina, but the company instead delivered a less romantic — and likely less valuable — lagoon.

The lawsuit alleges that Haseko engaged in deceptive advertising when it sold hundreds of units in the 1,100-acre, master-planned community, originally called the Ewa Marina Community Development Project.

“It was going to be the largest marina in the state, now it’s a hole in the ground,” said attorney Michael Green who represents the residents.

Contacted for comment about the suit, a Haseko employee referred Civil Beat to its public relations firm, Becker Communications.

Caroline Witherspoon, at Becker Communications, said, “Haseko is unable to provide comment, as they haven’t yet been served the complaint.”

Civil Beat did provide Becker with a copy of that complaint earlier in the day.

The marina was supposed to be a world-class boating destination. The lagoon, on the other hand, has no outlet to the ocean. It is geared toward activities such as swimming or stand-up paddle boarding.

Green said that residents paid as much as $100,000 more for their homes based on the promise that they would live in a maritime community. “They live in tract homes now that are no different from homes a quarter-mile away,” he said.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify how much money residents are seeking, but Green said they are requesting “triple” the loss that they have suffered.

The development site has 4,850 units.

Thirty years ago, Haseko approached the state to reclassify hundreds of acres of former pineapple fields for residential development. The original pitch was ambitious, promising 7,200 homes, resort lodgings, parks and even a ferry service to Honolulu. The planned 110-acre waterway included restaurants, shops and 1,400 boat slips. It was supposed to create hundreds of jobs.

The plan has evolved through the years, and has been scaled back again and again. But the centerpiece of the development remained the marina, the lawsuit contends.

At least until 2011, when Haseko announced that it was downgrading the waterway to a lagoon.

While residents are making their disappointment clear, the marina was not popular with everyone. An array of environmental groups spoke up during state proceedings in the 1990s in an attempt to stop construction due to concerns about the marina’s impact on the natural environment, Native Hawaiian burial and cultural sites, not to mention a popular surf break.

The mutation of the promised marina into a lagoon has highlighted concerns about how effectively state and city officials can hold developers to their word when they seek major land reclassifications.

You can read the complaint below:

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