KAPAA — It may be years in the making, but developers seeking to build a nearly 769-home residential subdivision next to Kapaa Middle School are laying their cards on the table by taking the first steps needed to get it off the ground.
The proposed development, called HoKua Place, now sits before the state Land Use Commission, which must determine if nearly 97 acres of state agricultural lands adjacent to the Olohena Road roundabout in Kapaa should be reclassified for urban use.
“The area needs housing,” said Greg Allen Jr., who manages Harbor Mall and has been working to get the development, formerly known as Kapaa Highlands, off the ground for at least a decade. “This housing is in the right place — it’s out of the flood zone, it supports Kapaa town, and sewer, water and roads are all in place.”
Some residents, however, don’t see it that way.
Kapaa resident Christie Monk, who lives near the proposed project site, said she does not believe it is an appropriate place for future housing and worries about the potential traffic impacts.
“I certainly wouldn’t want them to develop there,” Monk said. “That’s sad. Don’t bring more homes there — it’s so beautiful and lush. I’d like to leave it green — we call it The Garden Isle for a reason.”
Current plans for HoKua Place call for the development of 683-multi-family units and 86-single family lots and homes on now vacant agricultural land behind Kapaa Middle School.
Single family lots, according to preliminary development plans, would range in size from 7,500 to 10,000 square feet, while multi-family lots would range from 1-acre to 5-acre parcels.
Plans also include the construction of a 3.1-acre park next to Kapaa Middle School, which would have an area for a county-operated swimming pool, and a 1.4-acre commercial site that would house a country-type store and other small service stores.
One acre on the makai side of the Kapaa Bypass road — the southwest corner of Olohena and the bypass road — is also proposed for future commercial use or for police and fire department sub-stations.
Developers say they will also finance about $22 million in subdivision improvements, including roads, water systems, wastewater connections and utilities, once all of the necessary land entitlements and building permits have been secured.
“HoKua Place is proposed to be a sustainable community that preserves the rural-like character of Kapaa while meeting its growing housing needs,” project consultants from Kailua-based planning firm Ho‘okuleana, LLC wrote in a report to the state Land Use Commission. “Development of the property will address a portion of the significant demand for affordable housing in the County of Kauai, without significantly affecting reserve areas for foreseeable urban growth.”
The development, however, has encountered its fair share of setbacks over the years.
Plans for HoKua Place date back to at least 2005, when Allen and two other men, Greg Allen Sr. and Jim Lull, started to lay down the groundwork for the planned community, which was then called Kapaa Highlands.
Between that time and 2013, State Land Use Commission Planner Scott Derrickson said the trio filed two separate petitions to reclassify state agricultural lands for urban use. Both attempts were denied.
“They just did not have sufficient information, one of which is that they have a trigger that required them to (get an Environmental Impact Statement),” Derrickson said. “Initially, they did not think that they had to go through that, but we pointed out that, yes, they did, and on top of that, they did not have authoritative information about a number of areas that they were talking about.”
The property was then purchased from the three men by a Palos Hill, Illinois-based management firm, HG Kauai Joint Ventures, LLC, for $4 million in a March 2013 foreclosure auction, according to state Bureau of Conveyances documents.
Plans for the development now, Derrickson said, are still in the beginning stages.
The EIS process alone, he said, will require several public input opportunities before it can be submitted to the state Office of Environmental Quality Control and reviewed by Land Use Commission staff.
“A lot of it is up to them and the degree of agency comments as well as public comments that people identify as things they need to do — they may need to do some additional studies or hire additional consultants,” Derrickson said.
Even if the Land Use Commission approves the land reclassification for HoKua Place, those same development plans may need to be reviewed and approved by the county Planning Commission.
Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association Chair Rayne Regush said concerns about the density of the development, as well as worries about traffic in the surrounding area, have been expressed by residents in the past.
Kauai Skate Ohana Co-founder Mark Cooper, who uses the skate park in the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex, said plans for the development probably won’t affect people who use the skate park across the street or future plans by the Danny Way Foundation to upgrade the county-maintained facility.
“Right off the top of my head, I don’t see any issues with it,” Cooper said. “What I see is more kids who will need a place to play in that neighborhood that Kapaa New Town Park can benefit from.”