Developers must address traffic

LIHU’E — Developers of two multi-million-dollar resorts proposed in Waipouli have to find ways to mitigate traffic impact from their projects before they get his support, Kaua’i Planning Commissioner Ted Daligdig III warned during a commission meeting yesterday.

Traffic congestion on Kuhio Highway between the Wailua River and the north end of Kapa’a town is bad now, and without mitigation measures, driving through that section of the island may become intolerable, Daligdig suggested.

“It is very clear to me, listening to the testimony, that people are very concerned about traffic,” Daligdig said during a public hearing on the proposals at the Lihu’e Civic Center.

“If I have to vote on some-thing that will burden the people of this island, I am going to vote ‘no.'”

But Jeffrey H. Overton, representing Coconut Plantation Holdings LLC, said leaders of his company, and Coconut Beach Development LLC officials, are making good-faith efforts to help alleviate traffic congestion.

The two developers have set aside between $3.5 million to $5 million that state officials may use to make road improvements on Kuhio Highway between the Wailua River and areas near the northern end of Kapa’a town.

The money can be used to secure federal matching funds for road improvements, Over-ton said.

Other critics said the commissioners’ approval of permits for Coco Plantation Holdings LLC officials’ 12-acre project, and Coconut Beach Development LLC leaders’ 20-acre project, will mean the roads will become even more clogged with cars, making daily traffic commutes worse than now.

Up to 535 multi-family units, 12 hotel rooms and nearly 1,000 parking stalls could be built if both projects are approved.

No decision was made by members of the Planning Commission yesterday.

Critics of the proposals said that, if commissioners approve the projects, members of the body should require the developers to put in the infrastructure, roadways, water lines, tanks and sewage system before starting work on the resort buildings.

“Today, we need this developer to do ‘A’ before it does ‘B,’ and then it gets ‘C'”, said Anne Punohu.

County leaders also can forge a compromise to require the developers to put in the improvements and start the construction of buildings almost at the same time, she said.

Commissioner Larry Chaffin, an architect, noted that once a building is up, “it is very difficult to delay (issuance of) the certification of occupancy.”

What Punohu asked for is unprecedented, as developers generally prefer to build out a majority of their projects before pouring money into infrastructure.

While supporting property rights, Tito Castillo, a Kaua’i businessman and a Wailua Houselots resident, said the commission members have the responsibility of approving projects that are planned properly.

He also said the commissioners have a “duty to the public. Our concerns, the people I know of, are that there isn’t enough infrastructure,” he said.

Opposition to the project came from residents Mahealani Sylva and Puanani Rogers.

Sylva said she disapproved of the project, but supported residents who brought forward data showing the glaring need for traffic relief in Waipouli and Kapa’a.

Rogers asked whether it was feasible to build any more resorts, considering the lack of adequate roads to address increasing traffic congestion as more growth occurs on the island.

But Overton and others said developers have worked with stake holders, including state Department of Transportation Highways Division officials, a consultant who completed a detailed and expensive study on traffic solutions, and Kapa’a business folks, in trying to address roadway impacts from the two projects.

On another note, Westside resident Bruce Pleas contended the lands under which the projects are proposed are in a tsunami zone. If the commissioners approve the projects, the buildings have to be properly set back from the ocean to prevent damage to them in case of a natural disaster.

Related to the project, Over-ton said his company leaders plan to close a parking area on the north side of the property, but not close a pubic access to the beach.

In addition, company leaders will be creating another pathway to the beach on the south side of the property, and will build a parking lot for 12 stalls, up from six.

Contrary to criticism about the developer being insensitive to Hawaiian burial sites possibly located on the project site, Overton said his company’s leaders have worked with representatives of government agencies and the island’s burial council to ensure any remains found are reinterred properly.

Sylva said that promise rings hollow for her, because the work essentially amounts to putting the remains in a large grave site.

The 20-acre project proposed by officials of Coconut Beach Development LLC, because it involves the construction of 343-multi-family units, and is the larger of the two proposed projects, sparked interest as well during another public hearing that was held by commissioners yesterday.

Michael T. Heller, manager of that project, responded to queries from 53 persons, including residents, according to Kaua’i County Planning Commission documents.

The critics are from Hawai’i and California, and own units at the Plantation Hale condominium project, which is located immediately mauka of the project. The residents have enjoyed ocean views for decades, and don’t want their views taken away by the project.

Representatives from both projects have said that, in spite of the close proximity to one another, the projects are not related.

The 12-acre Coconut Plantation Village is to be built on the north side of the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach resort.

The 20-acre Coconut Beach Resort is to be built on a beach between the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach, and the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy.

Plans for the Coconut Plantation Village include the development of 192 condominium units, six hotel rooms, a cultural-preserve area, and a minimum of 399 parking stalls, although the developer plans to reduce that number to allow for more open space and landscaping.

Plans also include a reception area, an activity center, pavilions, a swimming pool, landscaping, walkways, barbecue and picnic sites.

The developer is seeking commissioner approval of applications for a Special Management Area Use permit, a project-development permit, and a Class IV zoning permit.

Within the 20-acre, Coconut Beach Resort project are planned an apartment-hotel-resort complex consisting of 343 multi-family units, six hotel rooms, a restaurant, a cultural-preserve area, two public beach accesses, 565 parking stalls, and other improvements.

The developer of this project is seeking from commissioners approval of applications for a Special Management Area permit, a project development use permit and a Class IV zoning permit. A Planning Department representative said commissioners’ decisions are pending.


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