The HoKua Place development in Kapaa: An alternative view

An important deadline is rapidly approaching.

If you want to have any say about the proposed Hokua Place Development plans to build 769 housing units near the Kapaa Middle School, you need to speak up now.

Comments on the HoKua Place Development Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be accepted by the state of Hawaii Land Use Commission at luc@dbedt.hawaii.gov until June 22. If you want your comments and concerns to be considered as part of the EIS process, they should also be submitted to the EIS preparer, Hookuleana LLC, at info@hookuleana.com

The recent article on the front page of The Garden Island entitled “Developer pitches bypass connection” (Saturday, May 23, written by Ryan Kazmirack) mentions that the developers of the HoKua Place project plan to build a new road through the proposed housing development connecting Olohena Road to the Kapaa Bypass. It quotes project principal Greg Allen as saying, “We know that we need to put in the roads before we put in the houses.”

The implication is that this road will be sufficient to handle the increased traffic from the HoKua Place development without further adding to the existing traffic congestion in the Kapaa corridor.

The article goes on to describe the development plans as calling for “86 single-family lots and 57 townhouse units to be built on 97 acres of land.” A more revealing description would be 86 single-family lots and 683 multi-family units in those 57 townhouses. That is 769 family homes — assuming the current Kauai average of 2.99 persons per household from the last census, we are talking approximately 2,300 people added to our local Kapaa population.

According to the final version of the “2012 Kauai Transportation Data Book,” the County’s own “Multimodal Transportation Plan” states:

“Kauai has the highest ratio of registered vehicles to population in the state, and is the only county where there is more than one vehicle registered per person.“

That would indicate those 2,300 people will have next to 2,500 vehicles.

That seems an exceptionally high number, even to me. But at a minimum, I would estimate an additional two vehicles per household, or 1,539 vehicles.

Add that to the morning and afternoon rush hour!

The developer’s own Traffic Impact Assessment Report, written in 2012, as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the HoKua Place, Phase 2 Development, suggested a very modest additional 394 vehicles will be added to the peak morning rush hour and 487 to the afternoon peak rush hour. It also noted that the traffic flow through the Kapaa roundabout and the intersection of the Kapaa bypass and Kuhio Highway were already rated “E” and “F” (failing grades for level-of-service or traffic flow).

Little or no traffic mitigation has been done since that report was written and the traffic has grown noticeably worse over the last three years. And, of course, their Traffic Impact Assessment Report did not take into account the recently approved projects in Kapaa at Coco Palms, the Coconut Beach Resort and the Coconut Plantation Village.

Considering the Kapaa roundabout already resembles a parking lot during peak periods, it is difficult to see how even these optimistic numbers could be sustained.

Yet according to the developer’s Traffic Impact Assessment Report, “Traffic impacts due to the project are not considered significant.”

The gist of the developer’s report seems to be “The traffic situation in Kapaa is so bad now, we can hardly make it much worse.” (this is not a quote — just my interpretation). The developer is depending upon the state and the county to take care of the traffic problems along the Kapaa corridor.

The Hawaii State Department of Transportation does have plans in place to address some of these issues. An HDOT project to add a lane to Kuhio Highway from the Kapaa bypass to the Kuamoo Road intersection at the Wailua Bridge is scheduled to start construction in 2016, subject to federal and state financing. HDOT is also looking at adding a lane and opening the north end of the Kapaa bypass to two-way traffic, although no project is currently scheduled or approved. They also have plans to tweak the traffic lights along Kuhio Highway to hopefully improve the flow of traffic. These changes may help, if and when they are ever implemented.

However, there is a Republican majority in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate these days, and federal funds for highway improvement have traditionally not done well under Republican majority budgets. State highway financing also has a way of ending up in projects on Oahu and Maui, rather than Kauai. Highway projects on Kauai also tend to take longer than projected to be completed even at the best of times.

Optimism is wonderful, but building an additional 769 housing units today, in the hope that the state and county can solve the traffic congestion issues sometime in the future, is a fool’s game.

It is clear why the county government supports the HoKua Place, phase 2 development; it should provide an additional $1 million to $1.5 million in pre-exemption real property taxes annually. The estimated retail value of the development ranges from a low of $209 million to a high of $276 million, including the 86 single-family homes and 683 multi-family units.

That is a lot of tax revenue for the perennially cash-strapped county to spend.

But even the county has evidenced some misgivings about the traffic impact from the project, as noted in the “Comments from County of Kauai Department of Public Works and Responses, dated June 6, 2014,” quoted on Page 133 of the Hokua Place DEIS.

There is much to like about the proposed HoKua Place development, phase 2. The developers have put a great deal of effort and research into trying to come up with a sustainable community that will provide a mix of middle- and low-income housing to respond to a growing population on Kauai. Unfortunately, until the issue of traffic congestion can be adequately addressed, it is a development that the Eastside of Kauai cannot afford. If it is allowed to go forward, then it will be clear that money — not the needs of the people of Kauai — speaks loudest to our elected officials.

References:

“HoKua Place Section 343‐5e HRS Draft Environmental Impact Statement“, available as a PDF at http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Kauai/2010s/2015-05-08-KA-5E-DEIS-HoKua-Place.pdf

“2012 Kauai Transportation Data Book” – Final Version

http://www.city-data.com/county/Kauai_County-HI.html

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Bill Peterson is a resident of Kapaa.

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