Kaua‘i approves size cap on big box stores

by Blake Jones – The Garden Island

Kaua‘i County Council approved a much-debated bill capping the size of future big box stores in May 2007.

The legislation limits all retail or wholesale establishments to 75,000 square feet in resort, commercial and industrial districts through a zoning amendment. The current Wal-Mart, Kmart and Costco already exceed that size limit.

Residents for and against the legislation turned out in big numbers for council meetings leading up to the decision to voice their opinions.

Supporters of the measure argued that it was a way to preserve Kaua‘i’s rural identity and conserve energy by shopping locally.

But opponents addressed the benefits of new big box stores and expansions to current stores such as increased competition and lower prices.

Council said the bill was not aimed at any particular company; however, it was drafted in October 2006 after Wal-Mart submitted an application the month before for a 66,000-square-foot addition, which would make room for more groceries at competitive prices.

For that reason, a recurring theme throughout the debate leading up to the vote was the difficulty of making ends meet on Kaua‘i and the relief a lower-priced grocery store could provide.

Following the decision, Wal-Mart spokesman Eric Berger said, “In the Mainland, we have encountered various ordinances such as this, and ultimately, this serves to limit consumer choices, which we think is unfair to our customers.”

Wal-Mart subsequently asserted its right to expand, saying initial plans were originally approved by the Planning Commission in 1994.

It went before the commission in September 2007 and was denied its request to expand.

The following month, a Neighbor Island county council rejected a similar bill to ban big box stores on the Big Island. Wal-Mart has plans to open the its first Hawai‘i “supercenter” there.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.