Spa would occupy agricultural areaBY PAUL C. CURTIS
TGI Staff Writer
KAPAHI — Over 130 neighbors of a proposed retreat center
along rural Kahuna Road have signed a petition objecting to the center in an
area which for generations has been confined to agricultural use.
Kaua’i County agencies have also expressed concern that the proposed commercial
venture, Amy Munechika Awtry’s Kahuna Springs project, may not be appropriate
in the county open zone and state agricultural district.
county’s Planning Commission could approve the project at its 11 a.m. meeting
tomorrow at Lihu’e Civic Center.
According to Carol Lemke, who spearheaded
the petition drive and whose family has land all around the proposed retreat
center site, there should be no commercial uses other than farming in her
“We want to keep (agriculture) as ag,” she said.
agencies have echoed her concerns. David W. Blane, director of the state
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s Office of Planning,
has written, “We are concerned that allowing visitor accommodations and
activities within the state agricultural district will set a precedent for
similar or more intense types of uses in the area.”
Awtry’s neighbors are
worried about the same thing, especially how a commercial venture already built
to accommodate 20 to 30 guests may forever change the serenity of their
Such commercial uses should be near the highway, not near
cattle-grazing areas, say Lemke and others.
“This development is similar to
a small resort,” Blane wrote.
“The applicant should clarify how the
project is not contrary to the objectives sought to be accomplished by Chapters
205 and 205A, Hawai’i Revised Statutes pursuant to Section 15-15-95, Hawai’i
Administrative Rules,” wrote a representative of Department of Business,
Economic Development and Tourism’s Land Use Commission (LUC).
refer to keeping state agricultural land primarily in agricultural use.
recommend that conditions be imposed to ensure that the proposed retreat and
spa facility do not expand beyond its proposed establishment to ensure the
rural and agricultural character of the Kawaihau region,” the LUC
Awtry’s 27.4-acres, called Kahuna Springs, has been
in agricultural use for generations.
The proposal by Awtry’s RAE ‘Ohana LLC
(Limited Liability Company) is to use 6.9 acres of the parcel for an
educational retreat and health spa.
Within that 6.9 acres are five
existing residences and three other buildings.
In her application before
the Planning Commission, Pakala native Awtry says such group settings for
educational and rejuvenation retreats are sorely lacking on the island, and
that her proposed uses “are not suitable in the properly designated and zoned
commercial and resort districts of Kaua’i, generally located along busy
Further, her desire to produce organic foods on the property
wouldn’t work in other areas, she said.
“Allowing the buildings on the
property to produce income from tourism will help offset unstable income
generated from the farm operations,” Awtry writes in her application.
area is intended to include a working farm operation, with taro and other
fruits, vegetables and flowers grown.
A bird sanctuary, farm, aquaculture
ponds, cultural and wellness programs, and numerous recreational venues would
“appeal to a small but growing niche market of visitors interested in
eco-tourism, agri-tourism, cultural tourism, and health and wellness tourism,”
There likely would be five full-time and at least 20 part-time
employees at Kahuna Springs, with opportunities offered to adults in
welfare-to-work programs and other unemployed or underemployed Kauaians, Awtry
Even though Awtry has tried to allay neighbors’ concerns about
traffic and how the proposal may change the quiet, rural neighborhood, they
remain opposed to any commercial use here. The proposal should be in a
commercial area, where the doctors, dentists and other businesses are, Lemke
and others contend.
“It’s wrong. We’ve got to hang on to our agricultural
land,” Lemke said. “Do it down where it belongs,” in a commercially zoned area
of the island, she added.
“It’s wrong because (Awtry is) trying to change
everything for the wrong reasons,” said Lemke, who would like her grandchildren
to be able to farm her family land if they so desire.
The infusion of even
one tourism enterprise in the neighborhood could threaten that possibility, she
Lemke and other neighbors said Awtry has verbally and in writing
told her neighbors that if they don’t want the retreat in their neighborhood,
she’ll not pursue the plan.
“There should be no commercial development
there, period,” Lemke stated.
Awtry is seeking three separate county
permits necessary for the project to proceed. A use permit is required as the
proposed use is not generally allowable in the county open zone, according to a
county Planning Department staff report.
A special permit is required
because the proposed use is not generally permitted in the Agricultural State
Land Use District, the report states.
“We would expect traffic problems on
these narrow roadways (Kahuna and Ahiahi roads are between 10 and 12 feet wide,
and Ahiahi is unpaved), which do not have sufficient width to accommodate
two-way traffic and/or are not paved roadways,” said county engineer Cesar
The Department of Public Works “has no plans to upgrade either
Kahuna or Ahiahi Road,” he said.
Staff writer Paul C. Curtis can be
reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) and email@example.com