LIHUE — Residents got a taste of what the new county council might look like after the Nov. 6 general election at a mock county council Monday night at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
Not all council candidates participated in the forum attended by about 100 people, but Luke Evslin, Billy De Costa, Felicia Cowden, Mason Chock, KipuKai Kuali’i, Adam Roversi, Norma Doctor Sparks and Milo Spindt deliberated about the proposed second urban center on the Westside.
The “second city” would take in Hanapepe, Port Allen, Eleele and surrounding areas. It would cover, according to Alexander &Baldwin, a total of 480 acres. The development would include residential areas for single and multi-family residential, land for industrial use, a 20-acre park, and places for fire and emergency services.
“I’d just like to make the point that the first look at this project should be at the community level,” Roversi said.
Doctor Sparks agreed with Roversi, stating the community needs to be involved with the plan so they can make good decisions.
“One of the things that I’ve heard from Hanapepe and Eleele is that they do want to keep their town small. That they want to have that peaceful, laid back way that is a rural life,” she said.
De Costa, born and raised in Kekaha, said there are 1,400 families islandwide looking for housing and by the year 2035, Kauai will be 9,000 units short.
“Large landholders do hold the key to our development, but smart growth and growth control is the way to do it,” he said.
As the project unfolds, one question Mason Chock wants answered is what constitutes affordable housing.
“If we want our children to stay here we need to determine how much of this project, how much of this proposed development is going to be affordable to our standards and to our children’s standards,” he said.
What makes things affordable is access to infrastructure, partnering with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and transfer of land to developers and economic development, he said.
In this process, community involvement is key, Chock said.
Evslin said the project could be built in a way that takes away from the community, or built in a way that every new unit adds to the community.
“Providing affordable housing close to jobs, reducing how long we drive, it’s reducing traffic, reducing carbon admissions, it’s increasing the viability of local businesses,” he said.
Evslin continued: “It all comes down to this: is each new house adding to the community or is it taking away.”
Cowden said infrastructure is an essential element as to what is and isn’t affordable, and said she would like to see the developer’s budget on implementing the infrastructure.
“How much can they actually build these houses for? We see a lot of developments like Kukuiula that is really not affordable for most of the people, and when I also look at this project here, there will obviously be some jobs in construction and building of the community,” she said. “But what comes beyond it?”
She asked how are we going to be creating the work and is it going to be supporting the people who live there.
“The big question we’re discussing here is are we building this for our people or are we building this for outside investors,” she said.
Spindt questioned whether the project is going to be too much growth and how the timeline fits into growth projections for the area.
“My understanding is there’s 550 units, but that will be done over four phases and take approximately 20 years, so what are our demands 20 years from now? (That) is the time horizon that A&B properties is looking at developing this project,” he said.
One of the challenges Spindt said he’s heard from locals is jobs.
“A continuing concern is and one of the things that I see on this is there’s some industrial and some other commercial uses to generate jobs in that area, possibly alleviating some of the traffic concerns, but there’s not really enough information available currently to make that decision,” he said.
Kuali’i said he knows the community wants this growth to be incremental, not transformational.
“So they’re talking about 20 years, it’s way too much in 20 years. You do recognize that jobs and housing definitely need growth and recognize that traffic and losing that rural character that everyone loves so much,” he said.
There’s nothing wrong in thinking far ahead, but the grand plan like this might need to be broken down into a plan for the next 10 to 20 years and another plan for the period beyond that, he said.
Roversi pointed out there are still development projects in the A&B pipeline that haven’t been completed and suggested a focus be put on projects like the 28 acres approved for expansion of Port Allen. That project was designated for a pedestrian friendly, mixed use, commercial and multi-family project, required to be 16 percent affordable housing.
“That was approved in 1990 and is still not built yet. Before we think about an additional urban expansion, mixed use development mixed with commercial, we should ask ourselves why A&B hasn’t developed the 28 acres that has already be approved,” he said.
The mixed use area is next to a mixed use residential area, not provisional agricultural land, he said.
Juno Apalla did not attend due to illness, but her communications manager read a statement on her behalf.
Council incumbents Arryl Kaneshiro, Ross Kagawa and Arthur Brun did not participate in the forum. Shaylene Iseri and Heather Ahuna also did not participate.
The forum was hosted by the Community Coalition Kauai. Their next forum is scheduled Oct. 18 in Kilauea.
Bethany Freudenthal, Crime, courts and county reporter, 652-78891, email@example.com