‘Dust bowl’ talks continue

South Shore residents, community leaders and developers will gather once again to assess dust and noise that have besieged the area due to unprecedented construction.

The discussion, at 6 p.m. tonight at the Koloa Neighborhood Center, 3461 Weliweli Road, will be held in conjunction with the county’s regularly scheduled Ka Leo O Kaua‘i meeting.

Issues to be addressed are health concerns, air monitoring devices, preventative dust action during dynamite blasting and a review of complaints and actions taken by the Dust Hui, a group formed last month to represent the developers working in Poi‘pu, Kukui‘ula and Koloa.

Since the last “Dust Bowl” gathering on May 29, Dust Hui representatives have implemented a hotline to funnel all concerns to a single channel.

Apart from the dust itself, residents had become frustrated by a lack of responsiveness from individual projects in handling their complaints.

According to Koloa resident and community leader Ted Blake, feedback from South Shore residents has been largely positive regarding the hotline.

“We definitely take our hats off to Koloa Landing, Starwood, (Goodfellow Bros.) and Kukui‘ula for leading the charge,” Blake said. “They are a positive force for the rest of the development community.”

Fielding all hotline calls is Patti Mielziner, neighborhood relations manager for Kukui‘ula Development Co. The task is not new for Mielziner, as she was performing the same job strictly for Kukui‘ula prior to the Dust Hui’s inception.

Mielziner, who plans to attend tonight’s meeting, said she has responded to between 40 and 50 calls from residents and vacation rental owners in the last month. For each call, Mielziner sets up a meeting at the residence to take a look and discuss possible maintenance and general cleaning solutions.

“I’m doing the best I can in trying to resolve the neighborhood issues,” she said.

In addition to the hotline, Kukui‘ula Development Co. President Richard Holtzman said he and the other Dust Hui members are stepping up mitigation measures at the source of the problem by watering sites and using dust screens.

“The community has been very reasonable in understanding the situation but has absolute expectations about what our obligations are in mitigating the impact,” Holtzman said.

He noted that in addition to a concerted effort by the Dust Hui, less wind and the rainy weather of late have worked in everyone’s favor.

But even under the best circumstances, homes and businesses adjacent to multiple construction sites will likely continue to experience the side effects of such large-scale development — some of which has yet to start.

“It’s going to get a little worse,” Blake said, noting the upcoming dynamite blasting at the Koloa Landing condominiums project site. “Certain residences … are right at ‘Ground Zero.’ It doesn’t matter what happens, they are going to get hit.”

Just yards from the Koloa Landing site is Waikomo Stream Villas on Po‘ipu Road, a resort with 60 one- and two-bedroom condos that has dropped online rates as low as $79 before taxes.

“Nearby road construction and new development affects the days, but nights and Sundays are peaceful as always,” states Waikomo’s Web site, www.grantham-resorts.com.

While that resort is still taking reservations, some smaller operations have not fared as well.

Po‘ipu Inn Bed & Breakfast owners Jami McKnight and her husband, Tom, decided to close the inn near Ho‘onani Bridge indefinitely after 20 years of business due to the construction-related dust, noise and traffic.

“It just became clear to us that it was not right to keep it open,” McKnight said. “Instead of eating lemons, you have to do what you have to do.”

The McKnights, who purchased the four-room inn from a previous owner in 2000, said they have also stopped renting their four condo units and two vacation homes in the area to tourists.

McKnight said the nearby development will take years to complete, and she does not expect anything to change in the meantime. She noted that Koloa Landing has signed a two-year lease for all of her Poi‘pu vacation properties, which will house staff, including a blasting consultant from the Mainland overseeing the impending demolition.

The McKnights have no definite plans to reopen the inn at this time.

“We have to see where the dust settles,” she said.

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