LIHUE – A bill proposing the $5.6 million purchase of land in Hanalei by the County of Kauai was moved forward at Wednesday’s County Council meeting.
The 3.02 acres of land sits adjacent to Black Pot Beach Park and the Hanalei River.
The county is looking to buy the land through its Public Access, Open Space, Natural Resources Preservation Fund account.
County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask said the proposal came to the county and council through means that had to remain confidential. Divulging the information until now, he said, would have been a violation of the charter.
“The reason I said that was important is because it explains why the circumstances were such that no one knew about this prior today is the lawful process we have to follow,” he said.
“This is not a big push for commercial use, this is for the public’s use. There’s very little opportunity for the expansion of public infrastructure in a public place beyond the Hanalei Bridge,” Trask said.
During a public comment session, Ted Blake, vice chair of Kauai’s Open Space commission, said he wasn’t aware this situation was going on until Saturday, and the news took him aback.
The Garden Island reported on the proposed land purchase on Saturday. The subject was listed in the council meeting agenda posted on the county’s website for Wednesday’s meeting.
Once purchased, the park will be for public use only.
Because the purchase would deplete the Open Space fund, Blake suggested the county look at other sources to pay for the land.
Once the purchase is made using only funding from Open Space, he said it will take several years to get back to where it is today.
“To raid all that money from the Open Space, I don’t think it’s pono. Especially for the work our committee has done,” he said.
The purchase of the property, said Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura, is the county’s fight against commercial boating companies in the area. In the past, she said commercial boats would go in and out every day and yell at the kids in the river.
“It was a violation of the whole policy that we set early on that commercial development and resorts be up on the Crystal Plateau and that Hanalei would remain a non-commercial area for residents and people in general,” she said.
The journey in expanding Black Pot Beach has been long, but the effort has gone forth, she said.
“This is the type of action that leaders take boldly because it’s thinking not only of the present, but it’s also acting like our forefathers did, our parents and grandparents,” Yukimura said.
The expansion of Black Pot Beach is for the whole island, she said.
They have to act on these things because in a few years, the opportunity may be gone, Yukimura said, and it would be a loss to the island.
Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, who co-introduced the bill with Chair Mel Rapozo, said if he was sitting on the Open Space commission, he would feel the same as Blake, but having heard the facts, he said he hopes they can see the county wants growth.
“We’re in a better place now. The Open Space fund was a solution to the problem. I mean you have a problem, you have to fix it,” Kagawa said.
Going forward, he hopes the council supports the Open Space fund because they took so much out of it and want local kids to enjoy the best park facilities.
“When opportunities present itself to make improvements and gain access to areas for life, I think it’s valuable because Kauai’s fantasy island for the rich. They want to buy whatever they can and once they buy it, they’re likely to restrict it,” he said.
A public comment session on the matter is scheduled for April 25.
Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was corrected to reflect that there are not legal fees that make the purchase $6.2 million. The cost of the purchase is $5.6 million.