Balancing act

POIPU — Carol Ann Davis has lived in Poipu for more than 50 years and still remembers a time when there was only a U.S. Coast Guard long range navigation station on the property and nothing else.

“I have walked the property, ridden a bike on it, or just sat on the rocky coast and watched as the ocean crashed on the rocks,” Davis said. “Makahuena Point has always been a lonely, wild, wonderful spot.”

She supports plans by Anchorage, Alaska-based company Cook Inlet Region, Inc. to develop 10 homes on the now vacant 14-acre property on Makahuena Point.

“I feel that CIRI will build a far better development than what might happen, if they sell it to another developer who is not as environmentally or socially conscious,” Davis said.

The Kauai County Planning Commission, during a recent meeting, unanimously gave its initial stamp of approval to the proposed subdivision, which would be built on one of the last vacant lots on Makahuena Point.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that our shareholders receive a fair return on their investment,” CIRI Chief Executive Officer and President Sophie Minich said. “Our fiduciary responsibility also ensures we will be committed to developing a high-quality project and be mindful and respectful of the sensitivity and the impacts to the surrounding community and environment.”

CIRI, a for-profit corporation to benefit Alaska Natives with ties to the Cook Inlet region, purchased the former U.S. Coast Guard LORAN site from the federal government in 1996.

The Makahuena property, once owned by William Bacle of Koloa, was conveyed to the United States government in 1907 and subdivided in 1932 into more than 25 legally recognized lots before the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance was adopted.

But the special management area permit that was approved by the Planning Commission will allow CIRI officials to consolidate all 25 lots into one parcel. That parcel, according to plans, will be eventually subdivided into 10 residential lots — that will be at least one acre in size — for single-family homes. A construction date has not been set.

A public access path, according to plans, would be provided along the periphery of the property and accessed by a public parking area along Pee Road. The private homes, meanwhile, would be separated from the public access area by a rock retaining wall.

“It is intended that there is going to be no development makai of the wall, and the intent is to provide access to the shoreline, so there is no intention to block people from accessing the shoreline,” Tom Schnell, principal and planner at Honolulu-based planning firm PBR Hawaii and Associates, Inc.

That path, once complete, would be connected to an existing shoreline path at the Point at Poipu.

A 0.65-acre open space area, adjacent to a U.S. Coast Guard-owned navigation beam, is aside in development plans for public use. But not everyone is on board with the company’s plans.

Poipu resident Rayme Meyer said she has made many trips to Makahuena Point over the years and is wary of how CIRI officials will ensure public access to the shoreline. Meyer said she and her husband would like to see a pedestrian access area that “is generous enough, wider than 30 feet (wide).

“One of the things that has been said is something that I hear a lot, and that is, ‘It could be worse,’” Meyer said. “I think that ‘it could be worse,’ does not mean that it’s a perfect plan and can’t have improvements made.”

Planning Commissioner John Isobe grew up on the South Shore and wants to ensure that public access is available for those with limited mobility.

“I’m older now and I probably would have a lot more difficult time accessing that shoreline today, so I understand — if I were 15 years old, I would be the first to say, ‘Leave it as it is. I can get there. No problem,’ but in 10 years, I’m going to have even more difficulty getting down there,” Isobe said. “I played along this coastline as a kid, but I can’t get down there anymore.”

Prosser said company officials have requested that no vehicles be allowed on the public access area but explained that they are “certainly amenable, at this point, to make improvements so that we could accommodate other members of our society in order to get to the beach.”

“If we’re doing improvements to dedicate something to the county, the county has to be ready to receive that improvement so that the liability, therefore, goes to the county,” CIRI attorney Jennifer Bank said.

Mike Tassler, who moved to Kauai six years ago and lives in the Poipu Kai subdivision, says he is concerned about flooding in the area on the bowl-shaped property and would rather see it undeveloped.

“What I’ve heard from guys who have lived here all their lives is that, when it rains really hard here, this is just a valley,” Tassler said on Friday as he walked along the Makahuena Point shoreline. “They’re going to have to fill this whole valley in because it’s just a river running down through here.”

Bird biologist consultant Reggie David said company officials are open to enhancing the seabird habitat along the shoreline, doing predator trapping and working with the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife to conduct seabird monitoring. No construction, he added, will be conducted at night to ensure that artificial lights do not cause fallouts.

“It’s obvious today, by the public testimony, that the land is just as important to each and every one of you as it is to us as Alaska natives and our land,” CIRI CEO and President Sophie Minich said. “It’s what eventually drew us all together as people in Alaska regardless of our ethnic background.”


Darin Moriki, county government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428 or


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