Long-range planning on front burner
LIHU‘E — For years and years, Keith Nitta was the county Planning Department’s long-range planner, a long-range planning staff of one.
With things like the every-decade update of the General Plan, area development plans, Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and many other items on his plate, no one could blame Nitta for the lack of updates to area development plans since their inceptions up to 30 years ago.
With Nitta’s retirement, Myles Hiranaka, an experienced planner with the department, has stepped into Nitta’s role and, assisted by two other long-range planners, is making great strides in playing catch-up with the various county long-range planning documents and plans.
Hiranaka, now manager of the Planning Department’s Long Range Division Team, is assisted by planners Lea Kaiokamalie and Marie Williams, along with Planning Director Ian Costa and Deputy Director Imai Aiu. The group is tasked with updating long-range planning documents and carrying out new planning initiatives.
If their proposal holds true, they’d like to add three positions — another planner, a clerk and an information technology specialist.
All but Aiu were present at Wednesday’s briefing for the County Council Planning Committee at the request of committee Chair Jay Furfaro.
Armed with the latest technology, including digitized zoning maps utilizing geographic information systems, the team has leaped into the 21st century, embarking on several projects, including at least one massive one — updating the CZO, the county law that includes zoning information on every single land parcel on the island.
Hiranaka said he and his staff are “methodically” updating numerous planning documents that are between 20 and 30 years old, while also addressing other pressing issues like coastal erosion and identification of important agricultural lands.
Kaiokamalie addressed six funded projects.
The CZO update has been funded at just over $200,000. The original document was approved in 1972, and the update’s first draft was published in November 2008. The targeted completion date is November of this year.
The zoning-digitization project involves using geographic information systems to be able to construct an island-wide view of all existing county zoning — residential, resort, agriculture, and others — allowing users to also zoom in as close as to identify a single, specific parcel.
The $65,000 project is 85 percent complete, and involves the University of Hawai‘i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. The final 15 percent is expected to be completed by August of this year, Kaiokamalie said.
The coastal erosion study has produced aerial looks at all of the beaches of Kaua‘i showing the amounts of beach erosion or accretion over a number of years.
The maps are complete, and the study will go to the county Planning Department this month, she said. County planners are looking at the best way to utilize the data in the CZO update process.
The Lihu‘e Town Core Urban Design Update is designed to guide the renewal of the Lihu‘e Town Core area through urban design themes involving building, streetscapes, as well as circulation for vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
The plan details mixed-use design and zoning recommendations for Rice Street, Kuhio Highway through town, ‘Akahi, ‘Elua and Umi streets, the Lihu‘e Civic Center and community facilities, and the former Lihu‘e Plantation mill site on Haleko Road.
Over $220,000 has been spent on the plan, which started in May 2005, and the Planning Department has reviewed the draft and is facilitating completion of the final draft, with the intent to present it to the Planning Commission, she said.
The Lihu‘e Development Plan Update has a scheduled start of June 2010 and completion date of June 2011. The budget is $800,000.
Tthe IAL Study is scheduled to begin this month, and run through September 2011, at a cost of $500,000.
Williams discussed ongoing initiatives other than the funded ones Kaiokamalie addressed, saying development of long-range development implementation and feedback systems are just as important as the projects Kaiokamalie discussed.
“The General Plan Update has wonderful vision,” but determining how to implement that plan, where zoning needs to be changed to implement the plan, and other factors, is critical, Williams said.
Digitizing documents and maps is time-sensitive with the U.S. census coming up next year, Williams said. Many people thought Kauaians didn’t fully respond during the 1990 census, costing the island valuable federal aid.
Further, Williams said it is important to educate people about land-use planning, update the aged community development plans, prepare for updating the General Plan, and updating an impact fee study.