Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 |
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Urgent action is needed if Kaua’i is going to survive as the unique and
beautiful place it is.
In case you have been living in a cave for the past
year, let me tell you about the General Plan Update. It is Kauai’s vision for
its future, as created by a professional planner from Honolulu, some folks from
the county Planning Department and a group of citizens from all over the
It is a fatally flawed document. This is why: There is a vision
aspect to the plan and a practical aspect, and they are in fundamental
contradiction to each other. The plan is out of integrity with itself, and out
of integrity with those whom it is meant to serve.
This is not to
criticize those well-meaning citizens who gave generously of their time to
create a plan for our community. Most likely they were simply bowled over by
the problems with the process (the “fast track”) and by pro-development
The vision aspect of the plan shows some of the heart of Kaua’i.
It gives support to a more balanced economy, with high-tech industries (low
environmental impact) and diversified agriculture sharing space with tourism.
This aspect of the plan spoke of the value of the unobstructed view planes,
preserving Kauai’s pristine environment, developing mass transit, growing
renewable fuel sources, and the valued contributions of the Hawaiian people and
The only problem with the vision part of the plan is that
there are no enforcement mandates – or, as citizens complained all along, the
GPU has no teeth.
So are all those nice words just lip service? As you
would imagine, that is not true of the more practical aspects of the
On the practical side, we can see how the vision has been pushed aside
in favor of tourism and development of second homes for tourists. The Kilauea
North expansion, twice rejected resoundingly by the people of Kilauea, is back
on the map. This would add significantly to the total of commercially or
industrially zoned acreage around Kilauea. We could have another Kukui Grove in
an expanded Kilauea town in a few years, if this proposal goes through.
journey of this proposed development is interesting. The developer, Jim
O’Connor, went down to the Planning Commission and asked that this area be put
on the map for expansion. Kilauea community volunteers led by Beryl and Gary
Blaich, Linda Sproat, John Constantino, Eva joy Miner-Peru, Rayanne Yadao and
Shelley Spencer polled a large number of the residents of Kilauea. Then Kilauea
voted in a new board less sympathetic to developers, and succeeded in getting
it taken off the map. Then it was put back on by the Planning Department. Then
the Kilauea Neighborhood Association Board voted overwhelmingly to take it off
again. Then the Planning Commission put it back on again. Erin Brockovitch
might have given up in the face of this.
So much for all the good work that
has been done on this issue. Is the Planning Commission a rubber stamp for
development? No wonder most good people give up in the face of the obstacles
that are placed in the public’s path by the bureaucracy.
Kilauea is having
a large development it doesn’t want forced on it, partly as a result of the
housing shortage. There is a reason why all the affordable housing on the North
Shore is gone, and longtime residents can’t find a place to live. Princeville
has managed to avoid providing housing for its employees. Most of the
affordable housing in Kilauea and the North Shore is taken by people who work
A related item on the GPU is Princeville Mauka, a huge
proposed development that will house 2,000 people behind the airport on what is
now Princeville Ranch land. Princeville is including a token amount of
affordable housing in here, perhaps to replace the housing it was supposed to
We all need to open our eyes here. If Princeville Mauka
happens, if Kilauea North happens, we can look a few years down the road to see
four-lane highways from Hanalei to Lihu’e. There will be no such thing as
one-lane bridges anymore. There will be no other way to deal with the proposed
increase in traffic.
You can already see 20 cars at a time lined up to
cross the Hanalei Bridge. When those numbers reach the proximity of 50, the
state will insist upon replacing the bridge with a modern concrete number. And
all the one-lane bridges, as well.
This will happen if the GPU
recommendations are followed. The average day visitor population has been
bumped from 24,000-28,000 to 28,000-32,000. It is presently at 19,000 to
21,000, and our infrastructure is straining at the seams. This proposed
increase boggles the mind, in terms of the effect on our roads, our trails,
parks, etc. The county can’t even keep the toilets clean at any of the beach
parks now. Look at Ke’e. What a mess.
The sensible thing would be to freeze
the tourist count at its present level and put that tourist development money
into developing other areas of the economy. Then Kaua’i could remain a
desirable tourist destination for many years to come, instead of peaking early
from poor planning.
There are other solutions to our problems, if there is
a real will to solve them. But Kaua’i cannot avoid a significant investment in
public transportation if we are to keep the charm of what we have. The traffic
problem we have now could be greatly decreased by having the buses go to and
from the airport, and allowing tourists to bring their suitcases on the bus.
Kaua’i County is not a cash cow for the rental car and taxi companies. Tourists
need options, and we need roads, not parking lots.
We must cut down on
needless traffic. The buses need to provide a place for surfboards and
bicycles, and even groceries, which are now banned, and expand the bus system
to weekend and evening hours. This is a top priority in order to make the
island livable for all of us.
Liz Randol is a North Shore-area
resident and is active in Kilauea Neighborhood Association.
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