Will developers determine our future?

The April 28 “community place type and visioning workshops” meeting in Kapaa was an all-day opportunity for the residents of Kapaa to stand up and speak to what is important for our future. Sadly, few residents were seen among several county employees as well as the CAC, General Plan Update committee members. Crippling Kapaa traffic was barely mentioned or the already planned future developments — 6 in total — further contributing to the already insurmountable congestion problems, let alone any significant solutions presented for addressing these most pressing issues.

It was disappointing to not hear the DOT speak of solid plans for road expansion, save for the pittance of a third lane added from the south Kapaa Bypass Road running in front of Coco Palms to Olehena Road, to begin construction in 2017. But the biggest shock was to see that slides, projected on a screen by the county, displayed images of the proposed 97 acres for urban development beside Kapaa Middle School with the same zoning designation color as urban downtown Kapaa, as though Hokua Place were a done deal.

There have been more than 160 written testimonies, as well as oral comments protesting this monstrosity in previous public hearings. The developer, Greg Allen, was there defending the up-zoning from agriculture to urban for Hokua Place, as well as were some county employees (conflict of interest?) who thought it would be good for the economy (property taxes?).

What about the quality of our lives here in the Wailua/Kapaa area? The final wrap-up presentation, which included recaps of the CAC process, sorely lacked substance and insights on how people on the eastside are going to manage with the lack of the most basic quality of life factors being met today as a result of poor planning in the past and now compounded as we move forward into the future. Are we willing to learn from past mistakes and make a course correction, or are we only willing to repeat them through complacency?

We need to pause and conduct a comprehensive calibration of where we are and how we got here. That means examining all aspects of what it means to be a remote island state. What about lack of affordable housing and food security on an island with 90 percent of food imported and the challenge of affording to live here when cheap oil disappears? Up-zoning ag land or leasing it to seed companies is not in the interest of sustainability for our island.

In essence, the band aid approach will not work unless the Herculean challenge of sustainability is faced. We are living on a small island that ships or flies in 90 percent of its food. Climate change challenges us, even now, with droughts and unusual weather patterns that threaten agriculture everywhere. Food prices will go up when cheap oil runs out. I haven’t heard the CAC/GPU respond to that, nor to affordable housing.

Besides creating more mayhem to the stressed traffic situation, Hokua Place has categorized only 25 percent of its nearly 780 proposed housing units as affordable. The question is what is the threshold for “affordable” and to whom does this apply, and compared to what one is using as the base for “unaffordable.”

Of course, they can sell expensive dwellings to people moving here from the mainland. Imagine nearly 1,600 additional cars from Hokua Place and another 1,600 guests and employees from the three new Wailua resort developments behind Longs and Coco Palms flooding Kapaa/Wailua. This is not to mention the barely acknowledged additional “entitled residential projects” — Kulana and Pi’ilani Mai He Kai (DHHL Anahola).

Before that happens, I ask you to get involved in this community process by attending the next CAC/GPU meeting on traffic from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Lihue Civic Center. Public speaking time is limited so make it short, but please either turn in written testimony or email it to: plankauai@kauai.gov. Ask the CAC/GPU, to go back to the last GPU of year 2000, and delete the recommendation that 93 agricultural acres behind the Kapaa Middle School Urban be up-zoned to Urban. Also, how about considering a moratorium on resort development, no more permits given for resorts and non-affordable housing developments in the Kapaa/Wailua area and put the focus on addressing our most current and pressing issues instead of exasperating them?

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Gabriela Taylor is a resident of Kauai.

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