Council to be asked to request a halt to eviction of Koloa Camp residents

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council will consider a resolution today that requests Grove Farm Co. withdraw its eviction notices to all its tenants residing in Koloa Camp.  

“We hope this will give people in the community an opportunity to be heard,” said councilwoman JoAnne Yukimura, who co-introduced the resolution with councilman Kipukai Kuali‘i.

Grove Farm has ordered its eight tenants, totaling 13 families, to move out of the historic sugar plantation camp by April 8 to make way for a new housing development called Waihohonou, comprising 50 modular homes prefabricated in China. The company has offered to sell “affordably priced” homes starting at $280,000 to its tenants.

Koloa Camp tenants, many of whom are seniors who have lived in the camp for decades and who say they can not qualify for or afford a mortgage, are resisting the order to vacate and have called out to local and state representatives for assistance.

Residents include an original member of the Hokule‘a voyaging crew, several Vietnam veterans and an 82-year-old grandmother who has lived at the camp for 57 years and had worked for Koloa Plantation, according to the resolution. All but one family has roots in Koloa Plantation, it states. One family worked for McBryde Plantation.

The resolution raises questions about the development plan for the camp site, including road access, traffic, flooding, septic systems, price, ownership susceptibility to future speculation, historical and cultural preservation opportunities, endangered species habitat and impact on the surrounding community, such as the loss of Koloa Early School’s playground.

“The resolution is mainly a request for a sincere effort (by Grove Farm) to find a solution. We are simply asking them to sit down and find alternatives. It’s a lot of work, but it shows a willingness to find a pono resolution,” Yukimura said, adding that the resolution is not a mandate and is non-binding.

Grove Farm spokeswoman Marissa Sandblom said the company is aware of the resolution introduced by Yukimura and is troubled by the number of inaccuracies it contains.

“It would seem that the County Council is getting involved in a private property issue, and we are concerned about the interference of property rights, as well as the precedent it would set,” Sandblom said, adding that a Grove Farm representative will likely be at the council meeting to listen to what the council has to say on the issue.

“Grove Farm has a long history of providing affordable homes and house lots on Kaua‘i,” Sandblom said. “It is important for everyone to remember that our Waihohonu project will allow nearly 50 families the opportunity to purchase a single-family home at affordable prices. As we have for the past four months, we continue to work with our tenants on finding alternative housing accommodations until Waihohonu can be completed.”  

Kepa Kruse, son of long-time Koloa Camp resident John Kruse and a vocal advocate for saving Koloa Camp, said he is thankful for Yukimura’s assistance. He plans to provide the council with a 2,000-signature petition on Wednesday, in addition to testimony.

The council has already received a lot of testimony concerning the resolution via email, Yukimura said, and it anticipates many more will come forward to testify in person today, so the chair moved the item up on its agenda to 9:30 a.m.

Testimony can be submitted via email to counciltestimony@kauai.gov.

On March 2 and with nearly unanimous support, the Hawai‘i State Senate passed a similar resolution, urging Grove Farm to place an immediate stay of eviction and engage in meaningful formal discussions with its tenants. The resolution was introduced by state Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahuku and Kane‘ohe, and state Sen. Ronald Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. on Tuesday said, “I hope Grove Farm and the tenants will engage in discussions until all possible solutions have been explored. If at the end of the day they can’t come to a mutually agreeable solution, then at least they can say they tried. The county stands ready to assist any tenants who wish to relocate with any options available.”

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 251, or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

0 Comments

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.