Sides line up over Kukui‘ula project

The Kaua‘i County Planning Commission yesterday heard testimony for and against a proposed 1002-acre project in South Kaua‘i that could become the most exclusive resort-residential community on Kaua‘i if approved by the commission and the Kaua‘i County Council.

The density of the project proposed by Kukuiula Development (Hawaii) LLC has been reduced from 3,400 units to 1,500 units, but land prices are likely to be beyond what local residents can afford, a county official said before the hearing at the Lihu‘e Civic Center.

A quarter-acre lot could run as high as $750,000, the official said.

If developed, the Po‘ipu project would eclipse the Princeville resort on Kaua‘i’s North Shore as the most exclusive resort-residential project on the island.

The Po‘ipu project will enhance property values in Po‘ipu and Koloa, but figures to significantly drive up Kaua‘i County property assessments of homes in the area. The Po‘ipu area already is an enclave for multi-million properties.

At the hearing, critics said the proposed project doesn’t call for a bypass road around Koloa town and will, as a result, exacerbate traffic in South Kaua‘i, that the 10-year project will create dirt, dust and noise and that it will further strain the island’s infrastructure.

Support, however, came from the island’s building and tourism industry, citing how the project would provide more market and affordable housing, will create jobs and business opportunities and will establish recreational opportunities.

Because of the complexity of the proposed project, the commission held off on a decision on the proposal.

A critic of the project, Jack Lundgren, a Kaua‘i dentist, said the developer’s pledge to “lower the density” sounds appealing on the surface.

But it will result in much higher-priced lots that most local residents will not be able to afford, Lundgren contended.

Saying he was citing statistics from a report on the project, Lundgren said the cheapest lot would run about $950,000.

Under the new proposal, upper value lots would sell for between $1.3 million to $2.3 million, he said, adding that “duplex or triplex” units would from $1.9 million to $2.3 million. A detached family unit would sell for up to $1.3 million, Lundgren said.

“How many people out here are going to be able to afford that,” said Lundgren as he looked back at the audience from a table before the planning commission.

Lundgren said the project is “targeted for mainland buyers, second-home buyers.”

On the issue of density, attorney Michael Belles, representing the developer, said the project has evolved over 40 years and that the downsizing is unique for Kaua‘i.

Alexander and Baldwin, when it was planning to go it alone in developing the project, sought optimum density for the project site, Belles said. Subsidiaries of Alexander & Baldwin and DMB Associates Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. formed Kukuiula Development Co. (Hawaii) to develop the project.

The thinking has changed now, Belles said, noting “This is a new plan” that will not maximize density.

Belles said the developer took in the concerns of residents and community groups like the Koloa Community Association and the Poipu Beach Resort Association in drafting the new proposal, and that the project, if it is given the green light, will be an asset to the community.

For its 1,002-acre project at Kukui‘ula, Kukuiula Development is proposing to develop a maximum of 1,500 units, including a 64-room hotel, an 18-hole golf course, recreational facilities, 26 acres for commercial uses, parks and open spaces. An additional 60 affordable housing units also will be built by Po‘ipu Road.

The developer also is seeking commission approval to expand a “visitor destination area,” a county designation, from 160 acres to 1002 acres to accommodate vacation rentals and time share units. The time share units will be limited to 106 core acres within the resort.

The developers are asking the commission to amend the zoning designations for the land from resort, open, commercial, agricultural, special treatment districts to residential, resort, open, commercial and special treatment districts.

The current zoning allows for a maximum of 3,400 units, an 18-hole golf course, commercial areas, and a 77-acre “resort core.”

The resort core is currently zoned for a 200-room hotel and two time share projects consisting of a maximum of 500 units, a 4-acre commercial area, a lagoon and supporting amenities, according to a county report.

Alexander and Baldwin executive and former county planning director Tom Shigemoto said the project was developed with input from residents and the government, leading to major accomplishments that will benefit the community if the project is approved.

The former planning director, Dee Crowell, had concerns about homes being built too close to the edge of bluffs overlooking Lawai Bay, Shigemoto said. As a compromise, the developer agreed to less density and creating open space, Shigemoto said.

Shigemoto also said the developer agreed not to build a restaurant by Kukui‘ula Bay in response to community concerns.

Mike Roberts, an executive with DMB and the developer of the proposed project, said Kukuiula Development has been equally responsive to community concerns about traffic.

The developer plans to build a portion of a western bypass road to Koloa from the project site and traffic circles to facilitate traffic flow, Miller said.

In addition, the developer hopes to facilitate the construction of a road that would link Koloa Road with Maluhia Road, as a way to bring traffic away from Koloa town, he said.

For the alignment of that road in the future, the developer has gotten in touch with the landowners and hopes to reach an agreement with them “whereby if we can satisfy the county and the landowners on the alignment of the road, we will facilitate the dedication of the right of way to the county,” Miller said.

But Louie Abrams, vice president of the Koloa Community Association, traffic congestion will only worsen without a concrete pledge from the developer to build that remaining portion between Koloa Road and Maluhia Road to bring traffic away from Koloa town.

“Yeah, what, wait for 20 years?” Abrams said.

Abrams also said the developer should follow a general plan amendment approved for Alexander and Baldwin in 1999 by the Kaua‘i County Council. The approval, among other things, required construction of a major project road before occupancy at the resort, a minimum 20-foot public pathway be established along three Kukui‘ula bays and reservation of four bay lots for park expansion purposes.

The developer has said it will construct a project road that could link up to Port Allen area one day, and will provide public access throughout the resort.

Miller also said that property owners need not worry about construction trucks lumbering down Lawai Road in Po‘ipu.

“Construction” trucks from East Kaua‘i and West Kaua‘i will be routed around Koloa town.

In opposition to the project, Kapa‘a resident Glenn Mickens contended it will strain “Kaua‘i’s infrastructure pass its carrying capacity. Our parks, our recreational areas, our beaches, our hiking trails and our roads all need serious attention.”

In support of the project, Rick Haviland , a member and spokesperson for the Poipu Beach Resort Association, said the project will create new market housing and affordable housing, establish extensive pedestrian and bike trials throughout the project and bring economic benefits

Support for the project also came from Clyde Kodani, president of Kodani & Associates, Hannah and Peter Sirois of Koloa, the Contractors Association of Kauai and Shioi Construction.

The project has the blessing of the state Land Use Commission, which recently approved urban use of the entire 1,002 acre project.

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

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