Planning commission visits Hanama’ulu development site

The Kaua’i Planing commission cut short a visit Tuesday to a coastline property north of Hanama’ulu Bay that is proposed for a 460-acre residential, commercial and golf project after some of the public joining the commissioners strayed from the main group during the visit.

The commission ended up visiting only one of two sites it planned to see because of the stragglers, said Abigail Santos, chairwoman of the planning commission.

One of the visitors, Elaine Dunbar, who is a critic of the project, said she was surprised by the commissioners’ actions.

“Mrs. Santos was so insistent on her troupe of guards…that the visit be shut down,” said Dunbar.

Security officers were on hand for liability reasons.

In all, five planning commissioners, county planing director Dee Crowell, two Kaua’i County Planning Department staffers and two dozen members of the public visited the site in vehicles. The visit began at 9:30 a.m. and ended about an hour later.

The visit was held to check on-site details of a request by EWM Kauai LLC, the developer, for a general plan amendment that would rezone 460 acres of the property from agricultural to residential/community use, plus a request for county permits for the revegetation of 29 acres of coastline.

Although not related to the visit, EWM, as an alternative way to develop the project, is seeking a variance from a county rule allowing only a one-time subdivision of agricultural land.

During the visit, Dunbar said she and other residents thought they would have free movement through the property after signing a waiver.

“We thought they were going to show us the whole area,” she said. “We felt the visit was a fact-finding mission for the public as well.”

Dunbar said no rules were set down before the visit began, and that she and others were barred from visiting sites where trees had been cut down as part of a three-acre “test site” for the larger revegetation project.

She said George Taguma, another critic of the project, was videotaping stumps that had holes drilled in them and had been poisoned. Representatives for the developer have said such work wasn’t happening on the land at an earlier planning commission meeting.

Santos said Tuesday’s visit was actually an official meeting of the commission.

In the same way the commission would not allow residents to wander through an meeting room during a commission meeting, the commission was not going to allow people to roam through the Hanama’ulu property, Santos said.

Contrary to what Dunbar contended, rules had been set down before the start of the visit, Santos said.

In addition, people were told that the commission could call off the meeting “if for any reason we felt it was not a comfortable situation,” Santos said. “At the beginning of the meeting, I asked people to be orderly and to stay together so that we could have an opportunity to view the site.”

As the visit continued, Santos said she observed that people began to stray on the property, even after they were told repeatedly to stay together, Santos said.

“After I observed that people were not going to stay with us, it became a situation that was uncomfortable, and I wasn’t there for that,” Santos said, pointing out that those actions triggered her decision to end the visit prematurely.

The group visited only one site located at the southern portion of the property, but saw “a lot” of it, nonetheless, Santos said.

Staff Writer Lester Chang can be reached at mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 225).

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