Farewell to 2014
What a year.
Pesticides, major developments and new retail stores were all some of the hot topics on Kauai this year.
But before we turn the calendar to 2015 come Thursday, The Garden Island looks back at the Top 10 stories of 2014.
1. A federal judge struck down Ordinance 960 — Kauai’s pesticide regulatory bill — on grounds that the rule was pre-empted by state law, and therefore invalid.
The issue divided the island for well over a year, and ultimately was passed by the County Council last year. Affected seed companies filed a lawsuit to block implementation of the rule in January of this year, which prompted the judge’s ruling in August.
But the order didn’t stop the legal fight, as the County Council appealed Judge U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren’s decision to uphold Ordinance 960 in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
In fact, a separate appeal to defend Ordinance 960 has also been filed in the appellate court by Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety on behalf of Ka Makani Hoopono, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America and the Surfrider Foundation.
2. Private Prince
Jeff Stone, Hawaii landowner and founder of The Resort Group, unveiled plans for a private 8,000-acre, 350-unit residential community to be developed over the next decade in the North Shore community of Princeville, with the Prince Golf Course as the centerpiece.
While some local residents have voiced support the low-density aspect of the plan, others view the proposal as nothing more than privatizing a special part of Kauai’s North Shore for the ultra-rich.
“The Princeville at Hanalei” will have its own polo and beach clubs, lodge, nature trails, golf course, restaurants, airport, spa and more.
Start to finish, TRG and its new partner Reignwood International, an investment firm owned by billionaire Thai-Chinese businessman Chanchai Ruayrungruang, plan to spend at least $500 million on the project, according to Stone.
The Prince Golf Course is scheduled to close on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve. It will be managed by Discovery Land Company, who will assume management on Thursday. It is expected to reopen in mid-2016 following $50 million in renovations, including a brand-new clubhouse and improved greens, fairways and cart paths.
Discovery takes over management from Montage Golf, a division of Montage Hotels & Resorts, which will result in 58 employees being laid off. Stone says Discovery plans to employ about 250 people.
3. 121 rescued from Kalalau Trail
The County of Kauai called it the largest rescue in recent history.
In April, 121 hikers were rescued by helicopter from Hanakapiai on Kauai’s North Shore after heavy rain and flash flooding left them stranded. The rescue cost the county $3,560.
Among the luckiest of the hikers was 12-year-old Zach Greenberg of Salt Lake City, who narrowly escaped with his life after being swept downstream and clinging to a rock along the river bank, about 100 feet upriver from a waterfall. Zach sat on that rock until Fire Rescue Specialist Aaron Hawthorne was able to drop down, bear hug the child and short-haul him to higher ground — nearly five hours later.
“When I was in the water, I was scared,” Zach said. “Then I was bored.”
4. Taxes and raises
The Kauai County Council unveiled several tax and fee increases when it rolled out its roughly $180 million budget earlier this year.
Included in the fiscal plan was $4 million in raises for county employees.
Several residents hit the roof, however, when they received their tax bills. Because a 2 percent cap had been removed the year before, some bills went up by thousands.
The county later offered tax relief options for residents whose bills caught them off guard. And the council approved a broad swath of spending measures, cuts and tax increases to level out the county’s budget. The county was facing a roughly $6 million shortfall in the 2015 fiscal plan.
Despite the financial fiasco, voters didn’t seem too upset when it was time to go to the polls in November, because …
5. Incumbents (mostly) rule
This election season proved to be a hotly contested one: 33 Kauai residents filed their nomination papers to fill 11 state and county seats that were up for grabs this year, including those of all 11 incumbents. Challengers even tried to unseat all three state House of Representatives incumbents on Kauai — two of whom ran uncontested in 2012.
In the end, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. was able to hold on to his seat after beating out Kilauea resident Dustin Barca in the general election and outpacing Hanapepe resident Debralynn “Mizdebz” DeSilva-Carveiro and Kapaa resident Curtis Lake in the primary election. All three Democratic state House incumbents — Daynette “Dee” Morikawa for House District 16, James “Jimmy” Kunane Tokioka for House District 15, Derek Kawakami for House District 14 — also prevailed in the general election against their Republican contenders.
The biggest change, however, occurred in the County Council race, where two challengers, KipuKai Kualii and Arryl Kaneshiro, unseated longtime incumbents Jay Furfaro and Tim Bynum.
6. Monk seal killed in Anahola
A female Hawaiian monk seal pup was found bludgeoned to death Nov. 31 along a rocky beach in Anahola.
Within a week of the killing, an initial $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible rose to $25,000, with contributions from The Garden Island and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The young female seal, tagged as RF58, was born June 28 at Waipake Beach, on Kauai’s northeast coast. After surviving a dog attack in July, an attack that killed another female pup, RF58 had been spotted in healthy condition as recently as 24 hours prior to being found dead.
The death is being investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in cooperation with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. So far, no arrests have been made.
Killing a monk seal, a critically endangered species, is a Class C felony and carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The recent incident is the ninth suspicious monk seal death in Hawaii since 2009. There have been five since 2011 — two on Molokai and three on Kauai.
7. Redeveloping Coco Palms
Shortly after the Kauai County Council extended a county law allowing developers to rebuild Coco Palms Resort using building codes in place when Hurricane Iniki shuttered the Wailua hotel, Coco Palms Hui, LLC officials unveiled their ambitious plans to revive it.
Those plans include the development of 273 hotel rooms and 77 suites using the hotel’s existing footprint — a slight reduction from the 398 to 403 rooms that existed in the original hotel.
These $135 million plans also include the addition of 106 new parking stalls to the existing 212 now in place.
Many of the hotel’s well-known buildings, including the 650-square-foot Chapel in Palms, 4,800-square-foot Sea Shell Restaurant, 23,056-square-foot Queen’s Hall, and 11,208-square-foot Lagoon Lotus Room, would also be preserved and restored.
Global hotelier Hyatt Hotels Corporation was tapped to operate the Wailua hotel when it reopens in 2017.
Adding a bit of excitement, on July 4 a fire destroyed the hotel’s main lobby and adjoining offices and badly burned the breezeway of a connecting building. A giant conch shell that hung above the hotel’s main breezeway was also destroyed in the blaze.
The county Planning Commission will take up the hotel’s redevelopment plans Jan. 6.
8. Punishment for old school punishment
A Kilauea man was given probation and a fine in May in 5th Circuit Court for punishing his son by making him walk a mile for not answering his questions — a form of discipline a judge called “old school” and no longer appropriate.
Robert Demond told the judge it was a common form of punishment when he was a kid, and that he didn’t see it as morally wrong or criminal. He had picked his son up from school and questioned him about a matter that came to his attention. When his son didn’t respond, he stopped the vehicle and made him walk a mile home to think about his actions.
The age of the child was not revealed in the course of the hearing.
The story went viral, getting picked up by media outlets across the world.
9. Iselle, Julio, Ana, oh my!
Sometimes, no news is good news. And when it came to hurricanes that had been moving toward Kauai, no news was fantastic news.
Still, before Hurricanes Iselle and Julio were downgraded to tropical storms, residents stocked up on supplies and prepared for the worst in early August. While Iselle broke up after hitting the Big Island, Kauai was spared. Julio, which had been behind Iselle, missed Hawaii altogether. Two months later, Hurricane Ana put residents on their toes in October. Ana, too, missed the islands.
10. New stores open
A trio of big retailers opened their doors at the Kukui Grove Center this year.
And long lines of eager shoppers greeted each opening.
In May Sports Authority and Pier 1 Imports opened up shop, followed by Ross Dress for Less in October.