New projects have Kauaians concerned about traffic, quality of life

The fast pace of development on the island, resort development in particular, and the infrastructure concerns that the rapid development has created and will continue to create, is the 2005 business story of the year.

There seems to have been a sea change in the feelings of many Kauaians, especially those who have become Kauaians in recent years, that development isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the island.

Not so long ago, Kauaians looked at Maui and Waikiki as places they didn’t want Kaua’i to become.

They were at home with the laid-back, neighbor-knowing-neighbor atmosphere, quite content, in fact, with the no-structure-taller-than-a-coconut-tree sentiment that got written into county law.

Yes, the new developments aren’t more than four stories high (around 40 feet, the height of some of the taller coconut trees), but they are sprouting, or plan to sprout, from Hanalei to Kekaha.

And, to many residents, they represent a potential threat to the Kaua’i way of life they’re accustomed to.

The largest are at Kukui’ula on the South Shore (1,500 units), but there are no fewer than five other projects of more than 1,000 units each, including expansion at Princeville makai (1,200 units), Knudsen properties on the South Shore (1,000 units), something planners like to call “Lihu’e infill” (1,500 units between Hanama’ulu and Lihu’e), and another 1,400 units around Kiahuna Golf Course.

Other large projects planned include Princeville mauka (950 units), Hulemalu plateau near Puhi (800 units), and Kauai Lagoons (829 units, including 106 units of affordable housing).

There are no fewer than 57 planned developments from Kikiaola Land Company in Waimea to Hanalei Plantation at Princeville, some under construction, some only under consideration, some with hundreds of units in several buildings, and others being county affordable-rental properties, Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii, Habitat for Humanity or state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands projects (Wailua, Anahola and Kekaha).

Sounding a word of caution about the planned development and lack of planned attending infrastructure is Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.

“Before we go much further, we need to assess where we are,” said Kanoho, worried that those at the lead county agency charged with carrying out long-range planning might be stressed beyond capacity them-selves.

“The Planning Department has been the most neglected area,” and needs to be funded better in order to fill vacancies and give planners other support, she said.

“That’s one of the most important departments on the island,” she said.

About the development rush going on now, Kanoho said, “Decisions are being made based on the market and not necessarily through the island.

“With the changing of the island with development, we’re looking (carefully) at each development.”

And, while each entity will be a strong contributor to the overall, the infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, parks) concerns remain, she said.

“Kaua’i has come into its own with successes, and people are taking advantage of that,” said Kanoho, who sees part of her job to ensure that those who are developing resort units on the island are willing to work with industry and government leaders “to benefit, look at what’s best for Kaua’i.”

Partnerships need to be formed with government and industry leaders and managers and owners of resort developments, to allow all to develop an understanding of what Kaua’i leaders and residents want, and to make sure that’s all what is best for the island, she added.

To end on an upbeat note, Kanoho said she is encouraged that there are people who are “trying to get their arms around the infrastructure shortage.”

Notably, those with the Kaua’i Planning & Action Alliance, led by President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Zachary, have launched an economic-indicators project that will provide a base-line of what’s coming and what’s needed in terms of infrastructure, Kanoho said.


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