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
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.
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
This is the fourth in a series of essays on the
convergence of community issues on Kaua’i. Ken Stokes can be reached at