Planning Commission almost ready to vote on General Plan Update

LIHUE — When it comes to Kauai’s General Plan, Planning Commissioner Glenda Nogami-Streufert wants to make sure future lawmakers are not locked into policies they cannot enforce.

“This is the planning document for the next 20 years, and we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years,” she said. “So by making it very specific, rather than providing guidance on how to make decisions, it becomes a decision that is already made, and we don’t have the facts.”

Inserting individualized provisions for developments like Hokua Place (a proposed housing project in Kapaa) and changing zoning requirements in Princeville near the Kalihiwai River could have unintended consequences current Kauai leaders are not aware of, she said.

“There are two separate components, I think. One is the General Plan, which has brought up items we’d like to see in 20 years. And the second is very specific community concerns, and it depends on who comes to the meetings (and) what gets highlighted,” she said.

On Tuesday, Nogami-Streufert and planning commissioners discussed the fifth supplement to the Departmental Draft of the General Plan.

The Planning Department is proposing to make changes to the formatting and organization of the document. The department also suggests edits to some of the 10 sectors outlined in the document, said Marie Williams, community planning program manager.

For example, in the Heritage Resource sector, sections were rewritten to explain the importance of ahupua‘a and moku boundaries, wahi pana and Native Hawaiian place names, she said.

The General Plan, which was last updated in 2000, serves as a blueprint for the future of the island. It contains everything from protecting Kauai’s beauty and the watersheds to addressing the Kapaa traffic and designing healthy and complete neighborhoods.

A 357-page updated discussion draft was released Nov. 4, after 18 months of public outreach.

On Tuesday, John Moore, member of the Kauai Community Coalition, told the commissioners to take an invested interest in all aspects of the island.

“We would like to ask the Planning Commission to take responsibility for everything that happens on our island. We believe the general plan still is only concerned about county government responsibilities and is not an integrated plan with a defined direction,” he said.

The General Plan Update is lacking the vision and leadership to make decisions on how to prioritize and define direction for the future, Moore added.

“Education, health care and the environment are still lacking, other than mentions, in the General Plan. The county’s response is that it’s not their jurisdiction, but if we don’t supply the direction of what we want we want for our island, we’re forfeiting our choice of what we want for our island,” he said. “The state and federal agencies and the private landowners will make the decision for us.”

Jessica Fu, a North Shore resident, asked the Planning Commission to remove from the General Plan Update a resort designation on lands in Princeville.

“Coming from a long line of families on the North Shore of Kauai, our grandpa was a rancher in the area. We all love our place very much,” she said. “I don’t feel that we need any more resorts, hotels or increased visitor destination areas in our home right now.”

During the meeting, Mike Dahilig, planning director, said he believes the Planning Department’s role in the General Plan Update is coming to an end.

“There are many items where our department has carried the ball as far as we can and decisions, at the end of the day, have to be made,” he said.

The commissioners weren’t ready to make a decision to approve or disapprove the draft, and unanimously voted to defer the decision until Thursday, during a special Planning Commission meeting.

“There’s been intelligent testimony from the community and the Planning Department. It’s been a give and take, and now we have to synthesize what we’ve listened to and make a decision,” he said. “I think we should probably defer it, take a deep breath, review what we need to review and vote on it.”

It’s a sentiment Nogami-Streufert echoes.

“The public deserves not just our commitment, but our reading through everything,” she said.

Thursday’s meeting will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Moikeha Building.

After it gets clearance from the Planning Commission, the update will be taken to the Kauai County Council as a commission draft.

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