Westside split on future resort development

HANAPEPE — Some Westside residents support the General Plan Final Draft,

saying that it adequately addresses their children’s and grandchildren’s

future; others say the draft should be scrapped entirely and redone.

One

heated question raised at a Kaua’i Planning Commission public hearing on the

final draft at the Hanapepe Recreation Center Tuesday was whether further

development as called for in the draft would keep future generations on the

Westside or drive them out.

Lopaka Mansfield, manager of Waimea Plantation

Cottages, said his employees’ children are in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas

and Tacoma, among other locations, because they are unable to find suitable

work on this island.

When families are fragmented, the community is

fragmented, he said.

He said he didn’t support the Discussion Draft of the

General Plan Update as issued in April of this year, as it did not address the

future of the island’s children and their children.

He feels the Final

Draft does, so he supports it, including the designations for resort use at

Kapalawai, resort and residential development at Kikiaola (Waimea), and

expansion of the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor.

Joseph Manini Sr., says the

entire General Plan should be taken back to the drawing board because, if it is

enacted as written now, it will result in the destruction of significant

archaeological and historical resources without proper authorization.

He

further stated that the entire Westside is a historical area, and should be set

aside for Native Hawaiian homesteading.

“Please keep the Westside country,”

and keep the visitors in the resort-designated areas of Po’ipu, Princeville and

the Eastside, said Judy Naumu Stewart.

Naumu Stewart and Manini, both

Native Hawaiians, also say that the Robinson family has no clear title to a

parcel of land between Kaumuali’i Highway and the ocean near Pakala proposed to

be a resort.

Therefore, the Kaua’i General Plan Final Draft should not

include a resort designation for the Kapalawai area, they say.

Attorney

Michael Belles, whose client Destination Villages Kaua’i has leased the land

from the Robinson family and is in the process of getting various state and

county approvals for a 250-cottage resort on the 160-acre parcel, said he has

legal documents proving the family has clear title to the land.

Naumu

Stewart also said the alleged owners of properties at Kekaha’s Kikiaola,

Kapalawai and Puolo Point near Salt Pond Park haven’t shown documentation

indicating clear ownership of these properties.

Naumu Stewart fears 14

acres of ceded land will be removed if a proposed harbor expansion is

accomplished. She approves of dredging of the harbor so that local fishermen

can get in and out of the harbor easier, but is against further

expansion.

There is a natural harbor at Waimea which could be developed,

and if ceded lands are taken for Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor expansion, she’ll

file a class-action lawsuit against the state, she said.

The area is not

big enough to support the kind of expansion planned, she added.

“Please

think twice before allowing development on the Westside,” she implored the

commission.

Cheryl Lovell-Obatake, like Naumu Stewart a Native Hawaiian and

member of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) which worked to formulate the

General Plan Update document, favors use of Kapalawai as a cultural destination

village, which could be closed at night and re-opened the next day, as opposed

to the proposed resort use.

Bruce Pleas of Kekaha isn’t necessarily against

a resort on Robinson family property, but is against resort development at

Kapalawai. “The area is too special,” he said.

If areas from Kapalawai to

Kekaha are developed for resort and other uses, such development will force

locals out of the Westside, Pleas contends.

Increased property taxes,

property values and rents will result, and Pleas questioned whether or not the

new jobs created by the proposed developments will pay high enough wages to

allow current Westside residents to remain Westside residents.

Pleas likes

the visions for the island included in the plan, but contends the visions get

lost in the meat of the plan.

Dr. Monte Hull of Kalaheo doesn’t support the

inclusion of Kapalawai and Kikiaola resort designations on General Plan maps

and in written descriptions within the plan, because they weren’t proposed by

the CAC, but rather by individual developers.

Such proposals should be made

to go through due process demanded of other General Plan amendment proposals,

meaning Planning Commission and County Council public hearings and

actions.

Further, Hull took the opportunity at the Tuesday public hearing

to try to dispel what he called the “myth” that more development means more

jobs means more of the island’s young people will be able to stay here and work

and live.

The best and brightest will likely continue to leave the island

for college after graduation from high school, with many of them also never to

return due to a lack of rewarding job opportunities for them on this

island.

He said he would hate to see Waimea become a resort town, because

property values, property taxes and rents would go up, forcing from the town

the poorer local people.

Many other of the 20 people in attendance at the

hearing spoke in favor of both the Kapalawai and Kikiaola proposed

developments, citing job creation and economic diversification among reasons

for their support.

Gloria McElgunn Duarte, owner of The Original Tax Lady

tax-preparation business in Waimea, moved west from east because she didn’t

like the way Kapa’a town developed.

“I’ve seen what bad development can do.

Waimea needs some development,” she said, adding that the Westside is fortunate

to have kama’aina families proposing low-key developments for the

area.

John Francisco supports Kikiaola Land Company’s proposed

master-planned community development, which includes resort, single-family

housing, golf course and other components, as these will create jobs for

Westside residents.

The development will also provide a much-needed boost

to the Westside economy, he continued. Alternatives to sugar employment are

needed for the long-term, in the event sugar dies, he said.

Many people

have moved away from Kaua’i and the Westside due to economic hardships, and

here comes a private developer with a proposal which will benefit the entire

community, Francisco said.

“Please do not force out our West Kaua’i

community from the area due to a lack of jobs,” Francisco said. He and others

want to be able to live and work on the Westside.

“People are important,”

and taking care of people will allow the people to take care of the

environment, he argued.

Roland Sagum III, the father of three children

concerned if there will be career opportunities for them on the island when

they become adults, is also a Native Hawaiian, CAC member and active community

member.

He is satisfied with the work the CAC did in formulating the

General Plan Update, and his participation in the plan allowed him to hear

diverse opinions about how people would like the future of Kaua’i to be.

A

former county deputy planning director, Sagum said a General Plan is never

going to please everyone, with some people criticizing the plan as too

environmentally friendly, and others saying it is too pro-development.

To

Sagum, the plan is exactly what it is called, a General Plan with general

guiding principles for the general future of the island.

Sagum, a paid

consultant with Kikiaola Land Company, favors the various Westside development

proposals.

Kekaha resident Robert Valencia agreed with Sagum, saying the

General Plan will never win unanimous approval from the people of

Kaua’i.

Valencia supports Westside development plans, which give him hope

that his grandchildren will have opportunities to live and work on Kaua’i if

they wish.

Liz Hahn-Morin, who after 30 years of living on Kaua’i finally

is able to live and work in the same town (Waimea), supports the development

proposals, looking forward to the day when her children and grandchildren will

be able to not only live and work on Kaua’i, but be able to live and work on

the Westside.

John Sydney Yamane, a third-generation West Kaua’i

businessman, is excited about his hometown’s future (Waimea), and supports the

various development proposals.

Being in a high-tech business, he is excited

about the area’s high-tech present and future. “Sugar can’t cut it

anymore.”

Children are coming out of college very smart, and need smart

jobs, he added.

West Kaua’i has always been an area where growth is

planned, and the General Plan offers a vision of what people want Kaua’i to be

like, he said.

Carol Hart and Don Moses both voiced their support for

Kikiaola’s plans, especially concerning expansion of the small boat

harbor.

Margy Parker, speaking as a Kalaheo resident, favors the plan to

make Puolo Point near Salt Pond Park an open-space area, adding that

recreational activities in the area would attract more people than the current

use of a portion of the area for tour helicopter operations (Burns Field, also

known as Port Allen Airport).

Ruben Ruiz, whose family has been on the

Westside for over 100 years, said he has no objection to resort designations at

Kapalawai or Kikiaola.

His concerns, as voiced loud and clear at the

commission’s first public hearing on the General Plan at Kilauea last week, are

about the proliferation of vacation rentals and their impacts on neighbors and

neighborhoods on the Westside.

Strict regulations are needed, especially

since visitors are coming to the island all year long, with no real tourism

off-season. He wants vacation rentals allowed only in places with Visitor

Destination Area (VDA) designations.

Many vacation rentals are second homes

for people who live elsewhere, and are revenue-generating accommodations, he

said.

“Tourism, we have to remember, is a courtesy-related business,” Ruiz

told the commission.

Besides the in-person testimony being offered at the

various public hearings, Kaua’i Planning Commission Chair Gary Baldwin said the

commission and department have received over 1,000 pages of written testimony

as well.

An additional three public hearings are planned by the commission

on the Kaua’i General Plan Final Draft, including Tuesday, June 6, from 1:30

p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Koloa Neighborhood Center; and at the Lihu’e Kaua’i

War Memorial Convention Hall, also from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday,

June 13, and Tuesday, June 20.

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