LIHUE — The question of what makes a community was the center of a heated discussion about the West Kauai Community Plan during the County Council’s Planning Committee meeting Wednesday.
At times, the discussion was so inflamed that Planning Committee Chair Mason Chock had to intervene, with Council Chair Mel Rapozo and Vice Chair Ross Kagawa exiting council chambers at one point.
The plan outlines potential development of 480 acres of land on the Westside that includes residential areas for single and multi-use family homes, industrial use areas and a 20-acre park with an area for fire and emergency services.
Though some people are upset because they feel the West Kauai Plan was added to the General Plan at the last minute, Rapozo said it’s been on the books for several years.
“It’s not like it just sprung up overnight, which is what some people are trying to get the community to believe,” he said.
After a public meeting conducted by a separate entity about the second city option in West Kauai last month attended by over 100 people, Chock said the public has been asking whether the process of gathering feedback has started.
“We just wanted to get some clarity from the planning director to let the community know what is forthcoming, because we haven’t started the process. We have a whole process for the Westside plan,” Chock said.
Kauai County Planning Director Mike Dahilig told the council his department has not started the West Kauai process because they need to make sure information going out to the public is accurate.
“I want to make that very clear. As far as launching any process, we have to prepare and we have to do our due diligence ahead of time,” he said.
The soft launch of the planning process, Dahilig said, will be in late May or early June.
Because regional plans haven’t been updated since the 1970s, Dahilig said this was an opportunity for people on the Westside to go through the stakeholder process of defining themselves as a community.
“We haven’t given them the opportunity to do so,” he said. “It sounds like many people want to jump the gun already and that’s healthy, but I want to make it clear that these meetings that are happening in advance of any process that we’re going to start, are purely meetings that are done by private organizations that wish to engage in these conversations.”
Councilmember Arthur Brun asked how they were going to ensure Westside community members are being reached for input.
“Please do everything you can to reach the people that are not loud, that are not going to come out,” he said.
Kagawa said he wants to make sure people who actually live on the Westside are heard during the planning process, rather than hearing from people who live on other parts of the island.
“If locals don’t want to show up, it’s just babbling,” Kagawa said. “Let the people that reside in that area decide.”
Councilmember Derek Kawakami said he supports having smaller meetings so younger people who might not speak otherwise will have the opportunity to be heard.
Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura asked Dahilig numerous questions about the plan, the process of finalizing the plan and the impact construction would have on the community and whether an Environmental Impact Study would be conducted.
Frustrated with Yukimura’s questioning that lasted more than an hour, Rapozo left for part of the discussion, as did Kagawa.
When he returned for the public testimony session, Rapozo stated it was obvious Yukimura was not happy with what happened with the General Plan and is using this process to put a cloud of conspiracy over it.
“This whole feeling, this whole thing is corruption, and it’s gotten worse after listening today it’s more so and it’s so untrue. The EIS and all of these issues that Councilmember Yukimura brings up to create this distrust in the community I think is so derailing, it’s deflating,” Rapozo said.
He said he stepped out simply because he couldn’t take it anymore.
“This last barrage was just simply an attempt to get the community to distrust this county, distrust the Planning Department, distrust this body and I cannot sit back and not say something about that,” he said, apologizing.
Kagawa said he didn’t know why they had to keep going back to the misinformation.
“A General Plan needs options,” Kagawa said. “That’s what it is.”
Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, may be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.