Planning Commission approves General Plan Update

LIHUE — The Planning Commission’s work on the General Plan update is complete.

On Tuesday, commissioners voted 4 to 2 to approve the seventh version of the General Plan Update, which restores Hokua Place, a proposed affordable housing development along Kapaa Bypass Road.

In its previous version, the development had been deleted.

Kanoe Ahuna and Donna Apisa voted against the General Plan. About 20 people attended the meeting.

“I’m not comfortable making a decision. All I’ve known in the last six months are the same testimonies I don’t think we’ve addressed,” Ahuna said. “I don’t understand how we’ve heard the same testimonies and haven’t responded to that. How are we taking the community’s interest?”

Ahuna made a motion to defer the General Plan Update and have a workshop.

“So we can re-visit the critical areas,” she said.

Her motion was denied 5 to 1.

“I don’t see the point of a workshop. We are a decision-making body, and if there’s something that specifically needs to be addressed, we can bring it up and talk about it,” said Commissioner Sean Mahoney. “We’ve gone through all kinds of testimony and gone through all kinds of meetings. I think everyone’s been listened to.”

The General Plan, which contains everything from protecting Kauai’s beauty and the watersheds to addressing Kapaa traffic and designing healthy and complete neighborhoods, was last updated in 2000.

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

But the $1.2 million project started in 2013, when the Planning Department began researching how to move forward with the update.

The Planning Commission has been tackling the update since the beginning of the year. It will now go the County Council for approval. If passed, it will go to Mayor Bernard Caravalho Jr.

During public testimony, Anne Walton, who lives in Kapaa, said the General Plan Update is built on an unstable foundation, including outdated data, inconsistencies and no rationale to support the reasons to keep Hokua Place in the General Plan.

“Let’s get back to where this General Plan started,” she said.

Carl Imparato, who lives in Hanalei, is concerned about how the General Plan addresses growth.

“We are drowning in an ever-expanding sea of tourists, and that excessive tourism growth is overwhelming our roads, parking capacity, parks and beaches, neighborhoods and lives,” he said.

He said nothing substantive was changed in the newest update.

“The current draft almost guarantees that county government will be the primary obstacle to genuine progress, rather than an ally in addressing the difficult issues that lie ahead,” he said.

Additionally, in the newest version, a paragraph that addresses a high tourist count was deleted, Imparato said.

He said the General Plan needs to go back to the drawing board, and when it does, he has two requests: The county needs to work with Kauai communities, and the General Plan needs to acknowledge and address Kauai’s tourism growth.

“Kauai’s health is poor. It’s like a patient in very serious condition. It needs surgery and rehabilitation, and all the General Plan is offering is a facelift.”

Commissioners made some amendments to the General Plan Update. They added a definition to “provisional” as it relates to provisional ag land, adopted agreements lined out in the Paris agreement and deleted a sentence that reflects a possibility of the Department of Land and Natural Resources beginning to charge people to go to state parks.

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