Some business leaders steer course of consensus

When Mr. Developer (whom ecologists love to hate) approaches Ms. Ecologist

(whom developers hate to love) about a partnership to get more funding for

Kaua`i parks, it is hard to say whether this is another example of converging

canoes, or whether these two frequent foes are simply tossed together now by

some freak wave.

Yet, when Gary Baldwin (Kaua’i Economic Development Board

and county Planning Commission) suggested as much to Beryl Blaich (Sierra Club)

after last Thursday’s general plan update workshop, we could not help feeling

that something like a course correction might well be underway here.


all, business has pretty much had its way on Kaua`i for the last six years, and

we have seen little evidence that business values community input. On the

contrary, too often they have effectively ignored input and focused instead on

ramming their cherished project approvals through the county regulatory


It has seemed like any developer with enough bucks and gumption

can run a project through the approval process with relative ease and few

concessions to community wishes.

To compound this state of affairs, the

community has effectively given up on government. Note the astonishingly low

turnout for this month’s general plan update (GPU) meetings versus one year

ago. Part of this disaffection with government comes directly from business

heavy-handedness. Especially after the best proposals to save Kaua`i from more

sprawl were gutted from the GPU draft before this round of hearings began-

largely at the insistence of business interests- most Kauaians simply do not

see much left worth fighting for.

In this context, it seems clear that

government approval is not enough. As one green architect quipped in a recent

lecture here on building codes,”Saying you got the building permit is like

saying if you had done anything less it would have been illegal.” Just so,

saying you have Planning Commission approval does not mean your project is

well-planned in the community interest.

The good news is that, although

some developers and officials will continue to narrowly focus on what they

can”get away with,” some developers are smart enough to start early and confer

often with the community.

We have recently witnessed several hopeful

instances of communities getting a developer’s ear before government approval

is sought.

For example, Jim O’Connor has been meeting with the Kilauea

Neighborhood Association on plans for development north of town. Never mind the

valiant community efforts over the decades to preserve this scenic view

corridor; at least they are seeking consensus on a preferred configuration for

any new development.

Down the road in Papa`a, Jeff Lindner has structured

the new ag lots for local acquisition, and, indeed, a number of local families

have jumped at the opportunity. Additionally, Lindner- who probably holds more

scenic view corridor than any single investor- has already expressed support

for Ho`okipa Network’s”Think Ahupua`a” campaign to restore Kaua`i


Likewise, Linda Faye has been listening hard to community

reservations regarding her family’s development scheme for Waimea and Kekaha.

And Justin and Michelle Hughes worked closely with local folks in Kealia,

honoring community wishes for shoreline preservation.

Perhaps business is

now getting the message of community-based management. Sure, you can do your

thing any old way, but”best practices” in a consensual community process yields

superior results. This is why community-based management is now official policy

in federal and state government approaches to watershed restoration, and why we

are committed to help build it from the ahupua`a up.

And guess where good

parks come from? That’s right-from good community-based planning.

So, if

there is any hope for a business-community parks partnership, it is going to

come first from a community-based process for site selection, facility and

access design, as well as planning for operation and maintenance.


collaborating on getting more park funds will be great. Yet, funds for what?

Seeking a consensual answer to this question will be the true test of


Either way, we can express gratitude that some business

leaders, at least, are charting a more consensual course for our island’s

future development.

This is the fourth in a series of essays on the

convergence of community issues on Kaua’i. Ken Stokes can be reached at


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