County welcomes participation in General Plan

Over the past five years, your Kauai Planning Department has facilitated an update to the county’s primary land-use plan, known as the General Plan. We would like to say mahalo to the hundreds of individuals and groups who participated in the process, helping us craft a document that reflects our society’s diverse fabric.

This process began in 2012 with technical studies evaluating population growth, climate change, agriculture, land use build-out, infrastructure and health. The studies were reviewed by a Technical Advisory Committee made up of community experts and representatives. The information revealed how our community has changed since the last General Plan in 2000, and the long range trends we must prepare for. It’s apparent Kauai will add 18,000 residents by 2035, caused in part by our own natural increase. Our society is also aging, as young people move away, leading to upticks in Kauai’s median age.

Upon this foundation we launched the formal public process in 2015. In addition to dozens of traditional community meetings, the department used social media, open houses, “popped up” at community markets and conducted a broad online survey. The process included feedback from a Community Advisory Committee, made up of 17 community members from diverse sectors. From emailed comments to Instagram likes, over 1,000 people engaged in the process. After the public vetting of a discussion draft in November 2016, the Planning Commission review began in January of this year.

The proposed General Plan’s framework is built upon four basic visions and goals. By the year 2035, Kauai is: 1) A Sustainable Island; 2) A Unique and Beautiful Place; 3) A Healthy and Resilient People; and 4) An Equitable Place, with Opportunity for All. These goals are purposely not prioritized and are meant to be balanced throughout the plan’s policy directions for each sector. Simply focusing on one goal, such as sustainability, could be at odds with the ability to designate land for local resident housing — a desire expressed by many Kauai residents. Instead, the plan focuses on reaching win-win scenarios and implementing progress in all four areas.

We understand this General Plan will not appease the desires of every Kauai resident or group, and some will disagree with our process and recommendations. This diversity is normal, and we have tried to create as big a tent as possible without running afoul of professional planning principles and the needs driven by our anticipated demographic changes. Our department has made every effort to have an equitable and transparent process, ensuring as many people as possible were included at some point over the past five years.

Our entire process is documented at plankauai.com. Please visit and see the hundreds of pieces of testimony and input our department has received throughout the lengthy outreach process, pictures from the public process, survey results and the various reports and materials documenting each stage of discussion.

We encourage your participation in the adoption process by providing testimony to our decision makers in the Planning Commission and council.

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Michael Dahilig is director of the Department of Planning, County of Kauai.

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