Kapa’a development plan update under way

LIHU’E — Kaua’i County officials have begun the process to revise the Kapa’a/Wailua Community Development Plan to establish future land uses for the Kawaihau District, which has the largest population of any district on the island, Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste said.

Kaua’i County leaders recently started working on the plan, which covers the area from the Wailua River north to Moloa’a, Baptiste told reporters during a meeting in his office at the Lihu’e Civic Center.

Land-use changes have occurred rapidly in the region targeted by the plan, and the changes have to be addressed, Baptiste said.

“It’s been nearly 30 years since the original Kapa’a-Wailua Community Development Plan was adopted, so it’s time for us to reassess past policies and make appropriate changes that reflect current and future needs in the area,” Baptiste said.

New resorts are planned to be built or will be built on the coastline in East Kaua’i, putting more pressure on the existing infrastructure in the region: roads, water, wastewater and utilities.

The plan is a pivotal tool to encourage orderly development in the region, Baptiste indicated.

Baptiste said he has begun work with leaders of Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration, state Department of Transportation officials, developers along the Kapa’a corridor, and residents, to try to develop more infrastructure as growth occurs.

Baptiste said some of the major issues in developing a plan for the Kapa’a-Wailua area include traffic, affordable housing, employment opportunities, along with infrastructure needs: water, sewer, drainage, solid waste, transportation and recreation.

Leaders with Wilson Okamoto Corporation Engineers/Planners, an O’ahu-based firm, won a $300,000 contract to develop the plan.

Baptiste essentially said the will of the people will determine what the region will look like in the future.

“That is going to come from the plan,” Baptiste said. “My vision is what the people’s vision is.”

But, if he had his way, Baptiste said he would like to protect “as many corridors of open space” as possible, have growth occur inland, and check urban sprawl on the coastline.

Baptiste has advocated the protection of public access from the mountains to the shoreline.

For the plan, Baptiste said members of a citizens advisory committee representing a broad cross-section of the community will help guide the planning process. Some members will be recommended by members of the Kaua’i County Council as well, Baptiste said.

Keith Nitta, a senior planner with the Kaua’i County Planning Department, said that, starting in spring 2006, community meetings will be scheduled so members of the public can provide input on the plan.

“We’re also going to the schools in the area, to do visioning exercises with the students, and their thoughts will be reflected in the plan, too,” he added. “After all, their lives will be impacted by our decisions.”

Preliminary groundwork has already been done by the consultant, including devising a work plan, gathering data, and communicating with other government agencies that have projects in the area, Baptiste said.

What’s unique about the Kapa’a-Wailua district is that it encompasses the full spectrum of land-use designations: agriculture, conservation, open, park, residential, resort, and urban center, Baptiste said. None of the other districts has these characteristics.

“It’s very interesting and challenging to develop a plan for this area,” Nitta said. “It’s going to set the tone for updating the rest of the plans.”

Nitta also said coordination with members of government agencies will play an important role in drafting the plan.

“It’s also important for us to coordinate our efforts with state Department of Transportation officials who are working on several road projects in the area, (county Department of) Public Works personnel who are developing wastewater plans as well as the bike and pedestrian path, and (state) Department of Hawaiian Home Lands officials who have two large housing projects in the works,” Nitta said.

A draft of the Kapa’a-Wailua Community Development Plan is expected to be completed in 2007.

The plan will then be sent to members of the Kaua’i County Planning Commission for their recommendations.

The final step is for members of the Kaua’i County Council to review the document and adopt it, Baptiste said.

The plan, when adopted by government leaders, will give teeth to the county General Plan, which conceptually outlines land uses for the entire island.

In coming years, the rest of Kaua’i’s community-development plans will be reassessed, for Hanapepe-‘Ele’ele and Kalaheo-Koloa-Po’ipu in fiscal 2006-07, Waimea-Kekaha in 2007-08, the North Shore in 2008-09, and Lihu’e in 2009-10, Baptiste said.

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