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Candidates, reveal stances on high rises

I am one of the many volunteers at the Kilauea Lighthouse. The lighthouse is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world. It was built in 1912-13 and the surrounding grounds consist of a lovely, spacious bird sanctuary, so bird lovers like it too. I am a volunteer on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and I take pictures of visitors, with their smartphone or camera, from the moment I arrive to the time we close.

I love doing it and it is probably my happiest time of the week. Our lighthouse is the No. 1 tourist attraction for visitors in Kauai.

There are a few days that we have over 1,000 visitors, but the average number of visitors is probably 800, which is still a large number. If you haven’t been there, please come.

On Sept. 19, there was a lull in taking pictures and a gentleman came over to talk with me. He was from Oahu and, as we talked, he asked, “When you take pictures, do you find out where they come from and why did they chose Kauai?”

I said that I do, and the visitors are from all over the world and they are wonderful. Sometimes I ask, “Why did you choose Kauai?” and the answer is usually, “Because it is rural, the island is beautiful, the people are friendly and it is what we think of when we think of Hawaii.”

He then asked, “Why did you choose Kauai?” I replied, “For exactly the same reasons. I love Kauai.” He then asked, “Do you have any concerns about the island?”

I said that I do have concerns. I like Kauai as it is and I feel that a high rise might be built on the island and that would change the uniqueness of Kauai forever. He then said, “A high rise is coming to Kauai.” I replied, “That would be terrible.” He then said, “Sorry.”

When he said “Sorry” it was like he was saying that it is already done, paid for, signed, sealed and it will be delivered. Not good news.

Kauai can survive a hurricane and recover, it can survive a flood and recover, but Kauai cannot survive a high rise and recover as the high rise would always be there and the character of the island would be changed forever.

For a long number of years, the building height limitations in Kauai have been 30 feet for residential construction and 50 feet for commercial construction. These height limitations are what have saved Kauai from high rises.

To change height limitations there must be an “enabler,” and that enabler is the mayor, as the mayor selects and appoints the members of the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission has the power to grant exceptions. In the past, exceptions were rarely granted, and those exceptions were never more than 2 feet.

On Kauai, as noted in The Garden Island newspaper, we really do not have mayoral debates as we know debates, for the questions are prepared in advance and agreed to by both candidates in the “spirit of aloha.”

Only those questions are asked and no questions can be asked by the attendees. As a result, these candidates are not asked many things, including whether they would approve, if elected as mayor, an exception to the height limitations or would they enforce the current height limits as all previous mayors have done.

The good news is that we have an outstanding daily newspaper: The Garden Island newspaper. It is a great newspaper and their reporters do ask questions.

A reporter for The Garden Island newspaper can ask each of the two candidates for mayor if they would pledge that, during their time as mayor, they will appoint Planning Commission members who will stay within the current height limitations of 30 feet for residential construction and 50 feet for commercial construction as all past mayors and the current mayor have done.

Their answer must be a clear yes or no. If a candidate feels that they would have “to study that” it should be taken as a no as they can do their studying now and be ready to answer when asked by a reporter. Also, refusing to talk with a reporter would be clearly taken as a no.

Hopefully all candidates will pledge yes. If only one of the candidates pledges yes he is the one that we should vote for if we don’t want a high rise.

I am sure that at least 80 percent of our Kauai island residents oppose high rises versus 3 to 4 percent that would benefit financially from high rises.

We have a very great mayor now who represents the people of Kauai and cares for each one of us. Let us hope that that high standard of care and concern continues with the next mayor.

The mayor should always represent the people and not the special interests.

It is clearly the law that campaign contributions cannot be based on an agreement that, if you the candidate do this, we the campaign contributors will support you and fund your campaign. Campaign contributions can be given to influence but they cannot be given to buy the candidate.

The candidate has no legal obligation to support the action that a contributor has expected and the candidate can walk away from that expected action.

A candidate that may currently support the plan of allowing a high rise to be built in Kauai has three options.

These options are:

1. The mayor can appoint Planning Commission members who would approve the exception of height limitations and would allow a high rise.

2. That candidate can withdraw from the election due to some reason such as health.

3. That candidate can tell his major campaign contributors, “Sorry guys, but I have changed my mind and, if elected, I will appoint Planning Commission members who will stick to the current building height limitations without exception.”

By taking option three, if a reporter asks, “If elected mayor, would you have the Planning Commission members to continue to retain the current building height limitations of 30 feet residential and 50 feet commercial?” You can proudly say “Yes I will.”


Joe Frisinger is a resident of Princeville.

  1. John Salerno-White October 1, 2018 3:15 am Reply

    Let Kauai’s mountains remain the only thing that rises high.


  2. MisterM October 1, 2018 7:16 am Reply

    I guess the author can be forgiven for blotting out from their memory the hideous monstrosity sitting next to the beach in Nawiliwili. Never again!

  3. Charlie Chimknee October 1, 2018 1:03 pm Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    As to high rise bldgs…

    …it would seem that laws against high rise are wise, but we think those words high rise apply to what we see on Oahu which has only 50 square miles of land more than Kauai has. They have a million, 1,000,000 people we have (?) 70,000. What’s our future. Oahu is an already trans planted mainland duplicate city/county.

    High rise for us is smaller and is the main building at the Kauai Surf, now Marriott Hotel.

    But, located alongside the Marriott on the face of the hill, or cliff, on Kalapaki Bay are Homes that stretch from top to bottom and are 4 stories high it appears. Maybe the lower floors are uninhabited, none the less they have the appearance of 4 stories and are not an eyesore or attracting nuisance. There are many other homes on hillsides on Kauai that are or have the appearance of being 3 stories.

    We have heard Mayoral candidate Derek Kawakami say it is time for 3 and 4 story homes to accommodate growing families and increasing generations in same families in same homes. This is a wise statement.

    We know of many families who are already 4 generations in same home and 4 stories would keep them all on island together, and depending on the number of new offspring may keep a family together for many generations, and as well, increasing density of more homes on suitable lots would allow their each generation to grow “sideways”, as in marriage and children that are inevitable.

    The alternative of families breaking up is not God intended; and a see off, goodbye, at the airport is a sad day of departure, like war never knowing if they will ever come back or be seen again in ones life. If it is appears as a happy moment, it is perhaps FAKE.

    So the question is do we shoot ourselves In both feet by current height restrictions or do we save families by allowing 3 and 4 story homes.

    And would a higher elevation apply to apartment buildings as well, providing more housing on a smaller foot print of land taken, than on spreading them out in 2 story Townhouses?

    We think it better to limit actual high rise, but what height is that, what height is best for Kauai.

    Rumor says Mr. Kawakami is in favor of tall building(s)(?) in back of Kukui Grove (?), but is that only 4 stories or is it 8 or 10 stories. We’d like to hear from him or any other candidate or Planning Commission member.

    Some of us prefer 4 stories to 2 or 8 or 10 stories as it houses more family and friends or tenants, and gives us more green space to naturally enjoy and keep it Kauai style.

    While new births are soaring on Kauai, as are the length of their names (whew!); at the same time the Asian population of Kauai elderly is soaring seeing that so many are living into their 9th, 10th, and 11th decades (congratulations…what’s the secret? Is it the food?). We are a growing population and the lighthouse man who wrote this article is wise to make the challenges now as to building height. Keeping it tiny, (it really is 20’ height only, the 30’ applies to the peaked roof design), and may not be the best for our present and future population, and how you gonna stop the newcomers, when there is no better place to live in America or Hawaii all things considered, than Kauai Nei.

    That 30’ height allows only 2 floors, when 30’ with a flat roof allows 3 floors…as to view plane, what’s the difference, but 3 floors means more family stays together, especially when the Tutu worked so hard to provide the home and later need help from their adult children and adult grand children offspring.

    It is time for a change, Derek has spoken up, can we get an opinion from Mel Rapozo who is an Akamai kind guy.

    Long after we are all long gone Kauai like Oahu will be forced to go high rise, but can we slow the process? 10, 20, 30, 50 stories and freeways Will one day be the future. Woe and begorrah…! ! !



  4. james October 2, 2018 6:54 am Reply

    Look, the reality is that not everyone who wants to live on Kauai is able to live here. It’s expensive. We don’t have enough infrastructure to support more people, let alone high rises. Good or bad, this is the reality. Not everyone can afford to buy property and live in Monaco, Hong Kong or downtown Paris either. It’s neither morally right or wrong that some people have to move off the Island due to economics. It’s just a fact of life in today’s world. If we want to keep Kauai from becoming Oahu, then accept the fact that not everyone can live here and move on. Don’t try to cram a square peg into a round hole. It will only screw things up more than they already are.

  5. Mel Rapozo October 2, 2018 6:58 pm Reply

    Mahalo for the question Charlie. I do not support the removal of the current height restrictions on Kauai. It is what keeps the rural character of Kauai. Again, I do not support any changes to the height restrictions on Kauai.

  6. tunataxi October 3, 2018 10:31 am Reply

    The height limit is proper for the island the way it is…. Only the very rich will be building homes higher than 2 or 3 stories not your “tutu” neighbor that can barely make it up the front stairs in later life.

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