LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a $3 million Kawaihau spur of the Kapa‘a-Lydgate shared-use path after denying a Native Hawaiian group’s request for intervenor status.
“Our position is that we believe that this use permit should not be granted at this time until this project (resolves) various problems,” said Waldeen Palmeira on behalf of Hui na Makaiwa o Wailuanuiaho‘ano.
There is still a need for a supplemental Environmental Assessment, she said, among many other “outstanding violations” in this “significant historic district.”
Palmeira, along with Josselin Noelani and Liko Martin, on July 19 filed a petition to intervene in the county’s permit application process, which if approved would have opened a contested case.
Martin, a self-described lineal descendant of Kawelohelii, said the petition for intervention was not a game of litigation sovereignty. His “unrelinquished inherent sovereignty” is afforded to him under the law, and his rights are non-negotiable or capable of being extinguished except by his own choice, he said.
Martin cited a 3rd Circuit Court decision on the Big Island to back up his request, to which Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask said is uncitable because “it’s just a circuit court case.”
Trask said the petitioners did not provide any information to substantiate their claims; they just stated legal conclusions and other “platitudes” relating to “what we describe as ‘Hawaiian rights,’” he said.
The intervenors would have to establish they have some property interest or ownership of the land, which they had not done, according to Trask.
“(Palmeira) just claims that it is illegal, that’s all she does, provides no evidence and provides no unique statutory citation,” said Trask. Palmeira quotes entire chapters without narrowing the issues, he added.
Palmeira asked the commission to look at the entire path, Trask said.
“She’s gone at length about Wailua Beach, the highway corridor, Kuhio Highway short-term project, the cane haul bridge project, design of planters in the Coco Palms areas, water system and Clear Water Act, and the Lopaka to Waipouli spur, none of which has anything to do with the Kawaihau spur,” he said. “They’ve actually demonstrated today that they will overbroaden this issue; they will make the record unmanageable.”
Commissioners also found the arguments from Wailuanuiaho‘ano representatives broad, complicated and touching many unrelated issues.
“The petitioners put forth a rack of information,” Commissioner Hartwell Blake said. “I got lost.”
Chair Herman Texeira, who lives “right up the road” from the proposed spur, said the commission was dealing with a specific issue, but the petitioners brought up issues related to the entire path instead.
“I was hoping that we would stick to just the issue of just the spur in Kapa‘a,” he said.
Flashing lights at crosswalk considered
The plans for the spur show a 10 – to 12-foot wide path, starting at Kuhio Highway and going up to Gore Park in Kapa‘a. An existing path will be the foundation for the new path, county documents show, but because of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act the path will go through a series of switchbacks.
“Our attempt is to follow the existing path as much as possible,” said County Engineer Doug Haigh.
In some of the areas the path will be an elevated boardwalk made of concrete and steel or timber.
Commissioner Jan Kimura was concerned with the safety of path users that would cross Kuhio Highway to access the spur.
Haigh agreed that safety in the area is an issue, and said he is considering providing flashing lights near the crosswalk. The county has been in talks with the owner of a nearby property, he added, and the owner has agreed to allow removal of some of the ironwood trees that partially block the visibility of drivers traveling southbound on Kuhio Highway.
James Alalem — self-described caretaker of all the heiau in the Wailua area — said Hawaiians have never given up titles to their land.
“We stand in a foreign country, my allegiance is to my country, the Hawaiian Kingdom,” said Alalem, adding that attorneys and police have taken an oath.
“This bike path is all lies,” Alalem said. “It’s a facade.”
Martin said the spur would be intrusive, and create “quite a shift” visually compared to what it is now. It would also create traffic congestion on Kuhio Highway, because of the crosswalk, which in turn would create dangerous situation for drivers and pedestrians.
“To have such an extensive use created for that area I think is something to really better consider,” he said.
Palmeira, who is not opposed to the multi-use path in general, said she disagreed with the permit application for the Kawaihau portion because it claims the spur would be built on an existing path, be ADA compliant and not adversely affect the environment.
The switchbacks deviate from the current path, parts of the path are not ADA compliant, and no “real impact studies” have been done, she said.
Palmeira asked commissioners to defer the issue to allow them more time to better understand the project.
A roll call vote of the commission showed unanimous support for the requested permits.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.