New Longs Drugs approved

LIHUE — Representatives for CVS Longs Drugs overcame public opposition and a 13-hour meeting Tuesday to secure a set of permits from the Kauai Planning Commission to build a 23,200-square-foot retail store in Kapaa.

About 10 p.m., after hours of public testimony and presentations, the commission unanimously approved the new store.

It will have the only drive-through pharmacy on Kauai, 97 parking stalls and will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

The building, initially proposed as a green box-like structure, went through architectural reviews and now incorporates a plantation-style design with light colors to blend in with the area, according to developers.

“We listened to the community and we made significant changes,” said Pat Cowan, vice president of KZ DevCo development company. He added those were expensive design changes and were only made in response to community concerns.

Now, developers have one year to start construction and two years to finish it.

The controversial project relocates the retail store and pharmacy from its leased retail space just down the highway at Kauai Village shopping center to a Waipouli coconut grove listed in the county’s Exceptional Tree Ordinance.

The nature and location of the project attracted much opposition from local residents, visitors and owners of Plantation Hale condominium, which is 75 feet away from the project. Some concerns had to do with traffic and visual impacts, loss of quietude, potential zoning noncompliance and increased crime and flooding.

“Let’s look at preserving the Garden Isle, let’s not turn it into a cement structure,” said John Naish, an owner at Plantation Hale condos.

Plantation Hale General Manager Eric Napoleon said condominium owners opposed the project.

He asked the commission to deny the permits on the basis that such a large commercial operational is not appropriate in a resort area, and the developers insufficiently address the impacts.

“Please don’t destroy my vacation,” said Joanne Chit Chat, who has been vacationing on Kauai for almost 20 years.

Plantation Hale owner Michael Reed said a large retail store right next to Plantation Hale, built 42 years ago, will drive property values down, and attract more traffic and noise to the area.

Additionally, he said the parcel in question was not intended for a retail store, it was for a resort. Just down the road, the Coconut Marketplace shopping center remains half-empty, with plenty of space for new development, Reed said.

Kapaa Business Association Vice President Neill Sams said the association opposed the project for impacts to traffic and because retail stores in resort zoning require a use permit.

Planning Director Michael Dahilig, however, said Longs didn’t  need a use permit because “retail food, drug shop” is a permitted use in the resort area. So the franchise was within its right to make the request.

Cowan added the franchise took the community’s concerns to heart when it designed the building to fit the neighborhood.

“This is going to be the nicest Longs in the state,” he said, adding it would likely be the most expensive building and have the best landscape of all the franchise’s stores in Hawaii.  

Among some 20 testimony in opposition, three people spoke in support of the project — a Longs store manager, a representative from a carpenters’ union and a former resident. Several opposed the project because it would infringe on the protected coconut trees.

The grove was planted in 1911, and since 1976 has been protected by the county’s Exceptional Tree Ordinance. However, the ordinance does not stop the trees from being cut to allow development, said architect Avery Youn, representing the developers.

Kauai Nursery & Landscaping manager Jerry Nishek, who prepared the arborist report for the project, said coconut trees have a life span of about 100 years, and many would need to be replaced soon.

The grove originally had 163 trees. About 80 of remaining 103 trees are more than 100 years old, and 10 of them are in severe decline, he said.

Relocating the centenary trees would put additional stress on them and shorten their life span, according to Nishek.

The store and the cement parking lot will cover about 54 percent of the 3.71-acre lot, according to Youn.

He said the company wants to assure the longevity of the grove, because they know the community considers it important.

The parking lot will have rows of newly planted coconut trees, about 15- to 20-foot tall.

Nishek said keeping older trees in the parking lot is a liability issue, and falling trees could cause death and injury.

The older trees which are outside the parking lot and which don’t need immediate removal will have seedlings planted at their base.

Cowan said when the project is finished, there will be more trees than now.

Cowan said Longs is willing to finance at least in part a traffic light on the intersection of Kuhio Highway and Aleka Loop, but state highway standards indicate the impacts are not enough to justify one. Developers are willing to revisit a traffic study in nine months to reevaluate the need for a traffic light there, he said.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

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