Retail center OK’d

LIHUE — The owner of an aging warehouse in Lawai has been given the green light to redevelop it into a small retail center.

The county Planning Commission on Tuesday, by a 6-0 vote, gave their stamp of approval for the building’s owners, Ty and Ariana Owen of Koloa, to renovate a vacant warehouse on Koloa Road and turn it into a commercial center that could host up to seven businesses.

“Where the building was when we purchased it was for industrial use like auto body shops — a lot of that could have gone in there already, but we decided not to do any of that,” Ty Owen said. “Our first and primary objective with this building that could put another glass shop or another auto body shop in there was how can we rehab this to better the community and the community of Lawai there — it’s a great little area and we’re thankful to be a part of this.”

The proposed project would include a 3,487-square-foot fitness business, 1,792-square-foot art studio, 1,141-square-foot restaurant, 590-square-foot coffee shop and 580-square-foot retail clothing store.

It would also accommodate 46 parking stalls — 30 behind the building, 13 in front and three along the side.

“I believe, when you look at the report, the actual facts and what the applicant has done to take care of any kind of lingering concerns, this is a worthy project,” Jonathan Chun, the Owens’ attorney, told county planning commissioners. “It’s going to give the public and the community an opportunity to grow. It’s going to support a lot of local businesses here on Kauai — the smaller businesses that people are trying to start now.”

Not everyone, however, is on board just yet.

Lawai resident Tessie Kinnaman, who lives a few blocks away from the proposed development, said she is worried that the proposed retail center will cause congestion along Koloa Road, near Kaumualii Highway, and not have sufficient parking available to accommodate all customers and employees.

Kinnaman said she is also worried the businesses may generate enough noise to affect residents in the Lawai Hillside subdivision across the street.

“I hope the applicants do very well when they do start their businesses, however, there are some impact concerns that should be addressed,” Kinnaman said. “The speed zone there, from that corner of the warehouse up to the (Lawai Hillside) subdivision is 20 miles an hour, and people do not go 20 miles an hour — it’s very hard to go 20 miles an hour, so they’re there going 30 to 40 miles an hour and up to 45 sometimes. It will create congestion. It’ll be a very busy corner on that end.”

County Planning Commissioner Amy Mendonca agreed.

“I know where this building is and I can see the need for having something of that nature, but I’m just a little bit concerned when considering the surrounding area because it is close to a residential area,” Mendonca told Owen. “My concern is the traffic going in and out (of the center) — you may get in by going right, but getting out by turning left at certain times of the day can be problematic. That road is busy.”

South Shore resident Summer Dillberg said she supports the project and believes the development will assist small business owners.

“Being friends with people who have small businesses, over and over I’ve seen them run into the problem of unaffordable overhead — I think it was just too expensive for them to run their businesses, and in turn, if they tried, they would have to charge more for their merchandise or services than Kauai people tend to usually pay,” Dillberg said. “I just want to encourage this project because places that are more affordable like Hanapepe just are so far away from Koloa residents.”

Planning Commissioner Hartwell Blake was absent and did not vote on the redevelopment plans.

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