Growing pains

LIHUE — For as long as he has been delivering sermons at Waimea United Church of Christ, Rev. Dr. Olaf Hoeckmann-Percival said there has always been a need to make a few additions or improvements to the oldest church on Kauai.

“Going back, the original building never had offices or classrooms on site and not really a fellowship area, either,” Hoeckmann-Percival said. “In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that there even was a restroom on site.”

It is a longstanding need that, Hoeckmann-Percival said, he hopes to accomplish through plans to improve and expand the Westside church’s fellowship building, Baird Hall, which is now used for community gatherings and church events.

“There’s absolutely a need for fellowship space because there are about 120 people in the congregation and the facility for fellowship can only hold a certain amount of people, so we’re pushed outside all of the time,” he said. “This is a long time coming, and people were probably thinking about this 100 years ago — I wasn’t there at the time, but I could imagine that somebody was saying, ‘We really need another space for fellowship around here.’”

Current plans to expand and improve the nearly 31-year-old building on historic church grounds call for the creation of church offices, classrooms and an single-story, 28-foot by 64-foot outdoor hall. A bell tower, according to county Planning Department documents, would also be constructed to house a secondary bell that has been acquired by church officials.

The original church bell, which was cast in Boston in 1836, would still be housed in the original Victorian-style church located along Makeke Road, Hoeckmann-Percival said.

The original church itself, he said, dates back to the early 1830s when early missionaries began building it on the north side of the Waimea River. The first worship service, according to state historical records, was held in 1854 when only the walls and the roof were finished.

In all, the proposed additions would increase the gross floor area of Baird Hall by 2,090 square feet, according to county Planning Commission documents.

Although specific costs have not been determined yet, the church is tentatively setting a $320,000 fundraising goal for the project, Hoeckmann-Percival said.

“The proposed expansion is designed to be integrated with the existing facility and satisfies the growing needs of the existing church congregation as well as the Westside community,” County Planner Dale Cua wrote in a Sept. 12 report that was submitted to the county Planning Commission. “The project site is directly adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, public and quasi-public facilities, including a high school campus, elderly care home and a hospital. As such, the proposed use is compatible with the surrounding uses and is not expected to impact urban activities in the area.”

The County Planning Commission will take up the church’s proposal during their meeting on Nov. 8 in the Moikeha Building Conference Room 2A/2B.

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