LIHUE — The Kauai County Council recently voted six to one to adopt the County’s General Plan.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who voted against the plan’s adoption, said there are three serious problems with the plan that can’t be ignored.
The first two issues, she said, are it’s structurally disorganized and not strategic. The third and “most offensive” reason for her vote, she said, is the sudden inclusion of provisional agriculture and neighborhood general designations for 844 acres of A&B land east of existing urban footprint of Hanapepe/Eleele.
“The magnitude the potential impacts and the way the map changes were done at the last minute, without explanation or discussion in the plan itself and little or no mention throughout the three years of the update process makes the General Plan update draft a travesty that makes me sad for Kauai,” Yukimura said.
There is not a second word of discussion and explanation, she said, about an urban center, which the landowner is proposing.
“Where is the transparency and the full disclosure? The two pillars of democratic decision making that make good public planning. It is not a satisfactory answer to refer the matter to the Hanapepe/Eleele community, because it is not just a community matter. It is a crucial decision for the whole island and precisely the kind of major proposal which should be handled at the General Plan level,” Yukimura said.
Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro said the General Plan was a 40,000-foot view of where the people want to see Kauai in the next 20 years, although he didn’t agree with everything in the plan.
“It’s not an exact plan, it’s not entitlement, it’s not a law, it’s not an ordinance, it’s a General Plan.” Next, Kaneshiro said, is “we have the Community Plan, which I think would be the 20,000 foot view.”
Kaneshiro said he didn’t agree that anything was sneaked in or added to the plan at the last minute. He said many of the things they’ve talked about have been in the plan the entire time.
Councilman Derek Kawakami said the council is tasked with measuring different community needs.
“We’re tasked with accounting for realities like the aging of our Baby Boomers and the lack of assisted-living facilities and where do we put our kupuna?” he said. “Each one of us campaigns on the keiki and kupuna.”
Kawakami said he doesn’t believe it’s a perfect plan, but believes it is a great plan for laying framework. The plan, he said does not give entitlements to anybody.
The plan addresses many areas, including affordable housing, land transportation, infrastructure needs, resort development, energy sustainability, increased tourism, traffic congestion and public safety.
Its purpose is to create a long-range vision and framework to guide growth and development in a plan to be updated every 10 years.
Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said he was disappointed in Yukimura’s comments and vision for the Westside. He said he believed the provision for land should be left in the General Plan as a placeholder for the future.
Both Kagawa and Councilman Arthur Brun said the idea of having a second city on the Westside has been blown out of proportion. Brun said many believe the idea was brought up by the Planning Department, but that wasn’t actually the case. The idea of a second city was brought up by a developer.
The provisional ag land issue, Brun said, is being taken out of proportion.
“The lies that are being told out there about this whole thing, that’s what’s hard to swallow. I mean, what’s being told to the community is different from what it actually is,” Brun said.
The plan, he said, isn’t set in stone, it has to go through many processes, but it helps the Westside, which needs growth.
Councilman Mason Chock said the plan represents a vision for this island and what the community wants for the future. He said the plan needs to be flexible, with continued collaboration.
“The biggest criticism as I said before is we had a plan, but what happened to it? How are we implementing it? How are we following through on it?” Chock said.
Yukimura disagreed with Kaneshiro, stating this was at a higher level, stating this was the vision they wanted for the island.
“Because in the definition of ‘provisional,’ it gives it an automatic General Plan designation. Once it’s put in the community plan, if we didn’t have provisional defined that way, once the community made the decision, then the developer would have to get a General Plan amendment and would have to do an EIS and everybody would have the information. So this is incredibly significant, what is being done here,” Yukimura said.
Yukimura said she was upset that people were putting words in her mouth.
“If there are lies being spread, please address specifically what those lies are,” Yukimura said, “and correct them right here, instead of just alluding to them and not identifying what you think are being lies.”
It’s a huge issue, Yukimura said, that’s going to impact the island.
Council Chair Mel Rapozo said more good than not has come out of this process.
“The baseline has now been reset or will be reset and from this moment forward, the county, the community, general plans can be amended if need be, but at this moment in time, I believe this is the best plan we will get,” he said.