Developers offer $12 million for Eastside improvements

LIHU‘E — The developers of two proposed, multi-million-dollar resorts along the Waipouli coastline are offering to give the state and county governments $12.4 million to address traffic, water and wastewater concerns.

To detractors who insist traffic improvements be made on Kuhio Highway between Wailua and Kapa‘a before the resorts go up, representatives for Coconut Plantation Holdings and the Coconut Beach Development say building the infrastructure and the resort can go on simultaneously.

The offer, pending the approval of permits by the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission, is unprecedented on Kaua‘i.

As part of meeting zoning or permit requirements, resort developers in the past paid environmental impact fees, made road improvements to mitigate traffic from their projects, and agreed to build affordable-housing units.

But what they have offered and have given pales in comparison to the offer of two developers.

“We want to be a real positive force in the community,” said Lawrence Smith, a manager with the Coconut Beach Development, during a meeting with The Garden Islandon Tuesday.

The meeting occurred hours before the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission continued a public hearing at the Lihu‘e Civic Center on the two proposed projects.

Puanani Rogers, a leading critic of the resort proposals, said the developers can keep their money.

“It is not about the money,” she said. “It is about care and protection of our ‘aina (the land) and our resources.”

Coco Plantation Holdings is seeking commission approval to build out a 12-acre project, Coconut Plantation Village, while Coconut Beach Development is seeking approval to build out a 20-acre project.

The smaller project is proposed to be developed on the north side of the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach.

The larger project is to be built on the beach between the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Waipouli Beach and the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy.

The projects are not aligned, but the offer of the money for infrastructure improvements is, representatives from both entities said.

Up to 535 multifamily units, 12 hotel rooms and nearly 1,000 parking stalls are proposed to be built, if the permits are approved.

Collectively, Smith said approval of both project will mean the injection of these funds into the community:

  • $5.4 million for traffic improvements, with $250,000 already spent for a traffic study. Smith said traffic is “worse than it used to be, and that is expected because of the island’s growth.” Yes, the projects, if approved, will put more vehicles on the state highway and county roads, but those staying at the resorts are not all expected to be traveling on the road at the same time, or during peak commute hours, Smith said. Hence the impact of the vehicles will be staggered. Additional funds will be put forth for acceleration and deceleration lanes on Kuhio Highway, and traffic controls on Aleka Loop. The traffic improvements have not been done without forethought, Smith said, as representatives for the developers have met with residents and government officials to ascertain what road improvements might be beneficial. Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste has said he pulled together a coalition of residents, businesses and organizations to address infrastructure concerns related to the two proposed projects;
  • $2.2 million for a one-million-gallon water tank to be built. Kaua‘i County Department of Water officials, in meeting with the developers, had expressed a preference for a larger-capacity tank to accommodate more growth in the Wailua and Kapa‘a areas, and the developers decided on the bigger tank, Smith said;
  • $4.1 million for improvements at the county’s waste-water treatment plant at Lydgate Park, and $300,000 to replace three lift stations along Aleka Loop and Papaloa Road. Smith said the larger water tank and the improved wastewater system could benefit more homes the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plans to build on mauka lands by the Kauai Community Correctional Center in Wailua.

The design and engineering of the proposed improvements can start as soon as the commission permits are granted, Smith said.

“The building permits could be conditional” on the implementation of the improvements, Smith added.

Mitchell T. Heller, chairman and chief executive officer of Marc Resorts Hawaii, who is involved with the development of the larger project, said the developers want to help out the community in other ways.

The developers want to set up hospitality-training classes at Kapa‘a High School, to encourage more island youths to pursue careers in the hotel and resort business, including management positions.

Rogers said that, while developers are proposing projects and programs they say will benefit the community, “we see it differently.

“Their cultural mana‘o is different from our cultural mana‘o,” she said. “And so, until they can show us a real beautiful plan, how it is going to benefit our island and our people, then maybe we can give them a second thought about the development.”

Thomas De Costa, a project manager with CM&D (Construction Management & Development), a Honolulu-based firm working for both developers, said Rogers is entitled to her opinion, and “we respect that.

“But she has her agenda, and that is the sovereignty movement,” De Costa said.

Another representative for the developers who met with The Garden Islandwas Kaua‘i native Dr. Puaalaokalani Aiu, a director of the Honolulu public-relations agency Communications Pacific.

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