Unbuilt bridge irks council

WAIPOULI — The owners of Kaua‘i Shopping Village in Waipouli came under sharp criticism from two Kaua‘i County Council members for not complying with a rezoning condition that requires the building of a pedestrian bridge over the Uhelekawawa Drainage Canal.

During a meeting of the council at the Lihu‘e Civic Center, councilmembers Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho lambasted leaders with Passco Kauai Village for not complying with the rezoning condition set 26 years ago.

The council members also blamed government leaders for not enforcing the condition and called for criminal and civil proceedings be initiated against Passco.

The request to waive the requirement will be the subject of a council-sponsored public hearing to be held soon at the historic County Building.

Rapozo and Iseri-Carvalho are expected to vote down the request.

The original owners and developers, Kauai Village Associates, sold the center for $26.9 million in July 2004. Passco Kauai inherited the condition when it purchased the property.

The pedestrian bridge was intended to provide safe passage for shoppers who went between the Kauai Village Shopping Center and Waipouli Town Center.

But interest in building the pedestrian bridge waned with the replacement of the Kuhio Highway with a wider and concrete-top version in past years, county officials have said.

In principle, the pedestrian bridge should have been built, and if the landowner doesn’t do so, then the Kaua‘i County Prosecutor’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office should initiate criminal and civil proceedings against the landowner, Rapozo and Iseri-Carvalho insisted.

Rapozo also accused Doug Haigh, chief of the Kaua‘i County Department of Public Works Building Division, of working out a deal that would eliminate the building of the footpath bridge.

“What is even more troubling (than the apparent resistance by the landowner to build the bridge) is the fact that I understand that there has been some possible negotiations from Doug Haigh,” Rapozo said.

Rapozo said he is fearful the county would “negotiate away this requirement in exchange for $110,000 (to be offered by the owner of Kauai Shopping Village), simply so that we could get a federal match to complete the (16-plus-mile, coastal) bike path.”

In the meantime, he said, “the people in Wailua, Waipouli, anybody who uses the two shopping centers gets screwed, and I cannot support it.”

Reached in his office after the meeting, Haigh said the accusation has no merit, and that “today is the first time I have heard of the $110,000.”

“Neither Douglas Haigh nor (leaders with the Kaua‘i County) Public Works (Department) have entered into any negotiations with the landowner on this issue,” Haigh said. “It is a (Kaua‘i County) Planning issue, not a Public Works issue.”

Kaua‘i County Planning Director Ian Costa was not immediately available for comment yesterday.

In an e-mail to Costa, County Engineer Donald Fujimoto said his department supported an “extension of time to construct the bridge.”

At the same time, Fujimoto noted, the bicycle and pedestrian path is “planned on passing through that area and it may be possible to jointly build a bridge that will meet both our needs.”

But Rapozo said the current landowner always knew the pedestrian bridge condition, and should comply with it.

In September 2004, representatives for the landowner sent a letter to a planning director, that the company would be willing to put up the bridge, Rapozo said.

Since that time, the landowner has tried to negotiate away the requirement, Rapozo contends.

“I will not be supporting this,” Rapozo said. “In fact, I will be again asking our prosecutor (Craig De Costa) and our county attorney (Lani Nakazawa) to prosecute civil and criminal penalties as provided for us in our CZO (comprehensive zoning ordinance) Article 24.”

The delay in compliance with the pedestrian bridge condition left Iseri-Carvalho angry and frustrated.

“That was over 26 years ago,” she said. “That is horrendous.”

She said in 2001 and mid-2002, leaders with the Kauai Village Associates requested a deletion of the condition, but withdrew the request because “there was too much opposition.”

“It was very clear that the developers were aware that the people of Kaua‘i demanded this bridge be built,” Iseri-Carvalho said.

She said the council introduced a bill in 2003 with the pedestrian bridge requirement, and the legislation was approved by the council and Mayor Baptiste.

When Passco took over the property in 2004, company leaders were made painstakingly aware of the requirement, Iseri-Carvalho said.

A condition in the new legislation required substantial construction be done by 2004, but “that was not the case,” Iseri-Carvalho said.

A law firm representing the landowner sent a letter to county leaders that “again (was) requesting an amendment,” she said.

From her point of view, Iseri-Carvalho said, “we are going back in circles to what was done four years ago in 2001 (when the previous owner asked for a deletion of the zoning condition).”

The bridge was supposed to have been completed by Oct. 1, 2005, but today, no such structure exists, Iseri-Carvalho said.

From her point of view, Yukimura said the issue remains unresolved because “the county is a house divided,” and because the “planning commission and the planning department have been resisting the requirement of building the bridge.”

Jesse Fukushima, an announced mayoral candidate in this election year who attended the meeting, said he was a member of the council in the early 1980s when he tried to work out a solution.

That involved building a pathway over the drainage canal that would have allowed vehicles to travel back and forth between the shopping centers.

The pathway would have been built mauka, or on the mountain side, of the shopping centers, thereby reducing the risks for accidents involving pedestrians, Fukushima said.

No representatives for Passco attended the meeting to respond to questions raised by the council.

Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.

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