LIHUE — The Land Use Commission will vote this month on changing the land designation at Kauai Community College from ag to urban, and officials say the recently approved university district will help streamline that process.
The designation, which was approved 4-0-3 by the Kauai County Council Wednesday, will give the college what it needs to expand its services, said Mike Dahilig, planning director.
“It’s being proposed by the Planning Department to fall in line with bringing KCC campus up to code in terms of how planning works,” Dahilig said during last week’s committee meeting. “It’s currently on ag land, so it requires special permits and approvals to make that campus happen.”
Councilmembers Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro and JoAnn Yukimura and Council Chair Mel Rapozo approved the measure. Councilmembers Mason Chock, Arthur Burn and Derek Kawakami were absent but excused, as they are attending a conference in Oregon.
As a university district, KCC land will be zoned for the types of services and activities it provides.
“There’s a mix of classroom building, food service and minor retail, and all these things aren’t encapsulated in one zoning district,” Dahilig said. “The university district integrates the mixed uses found on college campus, like dorms, gyms, guest accommodations.”
Currently, the Planning Department does not have the zoning type in place to accommodate that kind of use, so the university district status will allow growth and expanded services to take place, if the college chooses to do so, Dahilig said.
“Our concern is that if we don’t have something that accommodates mixed activities found on campuses, we’re going to be back in that segmented approach of permitting,” he said.
If KCC decides to build on the land, structures cannot be more than 50 feet high, he said.
Dahilig said he’s been in contact with officials from the University of Hawaii and KCC, and no one opposes the measure.
Brandon Shimokawa, vice chancellor for administrative services at KCC, previously told TGI the university district would allow for the creation of dorms, but there are no current plans to build housing.
At the end of the month, the Land Use Commission will be discussing a request from KCC to reclassify about 150 acres of land to urban use, but school officials have no immediate plans to use the land for campus expansion or to build facilities.
“As soon as it passes the Land Use Commission and gets urban, then KCC can petition the County Council to rezone area from ag to urban,” said Ka’aina Hull, deputy planning director.
KCC sits on 200 acres of land, and the remaining 50 acres will stay designated as ag, Shimokawa said.
The Planning Department anticipates that the Land Use Commission will grant the request, Hull added.
The college’s request is part of a petition from Island School, which wants to reclassify 38.4 acres of land to urban to build more facilities to accommodate a growing student enrollment.
But while the university district is now legal, that doesn’t mean KCC automatically gets that designation, Hull said.
“They have to petition the Planning Commission first to go to university zoning,” he said.
The creation of a university district is also in keeping with the 2000 General Plan, which set education goals like providing degrees for local students and pursuing a four-year university status.
And the draft of the 2017 General Plan Update notes that a university zone would promote “growth and development of the university’s campus, its programs and its student enrollment.”
Yukimura and Kagawa believe the university district status is a tool that will help KCC succeed in providing a quality education to students.
“KCC is a tremendous asset to this community, especially when you go to graduations and see people get degrees and capacity to support themselves and their families,” Yukimura said. “Whatever facilitates KCC’s growth and development is really a good thing.”
And future expansion of the college may entice local students to stay on the island, Kagawa said.
“If KCC were expanded, it’d be a better alternative,” he said.