Village at Koloa Town developer meets wishes of community

Public hearing closes

by Nathan Eagle – THE GARDEN ISLAND

Residents touted the tale of a developer willing to work with the community as a South Shore project three years in the works wrapped up another chapter yesterday and prepared to start its next.

The Village at Koloa Town has proposed a two-story 34-unit multi-family residential condominium with an off-street parking structure and a commercial complex containing some 45,000 square feet of retail and office space in one- and two-story buildings. Weliweli, Koloa and Waikomo roads border the 5-acre project site.

The county Planning Commission closed the public hearing portion of the process, but the seven-member body delayed action on the requested use and zoning permits until its June 10 meeting at the Mo‘ikeha Building.

The developer, represented by Gregg Kamm, agreed to the extension so the county Planning Department could have an extra two weeks to complete its list of recommended conditions. The deadline for action was June 7.

Residents and several government agencies offered a mixed bag of comments on the project.

Persisting concerns — including inadequate water supply, drainage, traffic and liability over a tree in a county right-of-way — will be worked out with the county Public Works Department, Kamm said.

The Koloa Community Association, which has been involved with the project since it was first proposed in 2005 as the Historic Koloa Village, voiced its support for the commission to approve the permits with certain conditions.

Louie Abrams, the association’s president, detailed the project’s evolution and the developer’s willingness to work with the community.

“Our community association initially struggled to articulate what we envisioned the structures should look like in the historic subdistrict of Koloa, as called for in the Koloa-Poipu-Kalaheo Development Plan,” he said in his testimony. “While KCA was not satisfied with the commercial building look, we understood that further design revisions would be forthcoming in the design review subsequent to the approval.”

The commission initially denied the application and a request to reconsider it in August 2006 despite the county Planning Department’s recommended approval with conditions which the association supported.

“Instead of going to court, this applicant continued to work with the community in refining the plans,” Abrams said. “We were more than thrilled to see the redesign.”

The design of the store fronts now more closely captures the look and feel of the historic town, Koloa resident Carlos Buhk said.

“The community isn’t against development in Koloa, they just want it to be sensible,” he said.

Residents have opposed recent projects in the area, such as Koloa Marketplace and Koloa Creekside Estates, for various reasons including the buildings were too tall and too many mature monkeypod trees would be removed.

Those two developers sued the county for unlawful conditions and failing to meet application deadlines.

The Village at Koloa Town development manager Steve Oldfield has reportedly worked well with the community. His desire to preserve a crepe myrtle tree at the Koloa and Weliweli roads intersection is an example.

The county engineer, Donald Fujimoto, recommended the tree be relocated because it will present a traffic obstacle when the roads are improved for the project. The tree would sit on an island, according to the plans.

Fujimoto agreed to sign off on leaving the tree if the community would accept all liability, county records show.

Oldfield said keeping the trees has been a priority from the beginning and he would be willing to help maintain it, but the developer could not legally assume liability for a county tree sitting on county property.

It is growing in lava rock and cannot be moved, he said.

Kamm called the trees an “emblem of Koloa” and as such should remain, but the county must accept the responsibility.

Not all the residents who testified agreed with the association’s recommended approval.

South Shore resident Tessie Kinnaman noted “a lot of unfinished business” and said the project is “just too overwhelming for Koloa.”

Westside resident Bruce Pleas renewed his concerns over workforce availability.

He said the county should conduct a study to determine how many local workers are available for these projects.

“If we OK this project, will it cause more people to come in to work instead of our residents?” Pleas said. “We must set these in line so our workers can go from one job to another to another. I’ve said this before, nobody listened. It’s a valid reason to have this project hold off … but you need the figures.”

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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