LIHUE — The Land Use Commission held a packed meeting in the Moikeha Building conference room Thursday where 38 public testimonies were taken and over 100 people attended. The meeting was held specifically on whether to accept a final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed 53.4 acres Kealia Mauka subdivision in Kealia.
Six commissioners, including new commissioner Dan Giovanni, considered testimony from members of the public who were against any development of the proposed subdivision, those in favor of the development and Native Hawaiians who claimed the development would hinder their land access for hunting and kalo farming.
Several testifiers additionally pointed to a land title of the proposed subdivision as having kuleana land granted in 1850 by Kamehameha III.
The county Planning Department and Director Ka’aina Hull and the state Office of Planning were also in attendance along with the petitioner, Kealia LLC, and their legal representation.
Kealia LLC owner Peter Nolan also in attendance and personally commissioned the $1.2 million EIS. Hull was joined by First Deputy County Attorney Nicholas Courson.
Managing Director and former Planning Commissioner Mike Dhalig was subpoenaed before the commission to answer questions as to why he penned two letters to the land commission about the proposed development after public testimony was taken for over four hours.
Two groups revealed during public testimony that they plan to be interveners in the proposed subdivision throughout the meeting.
“We believe that our concerns have not been addressed sufficiently, if at all, in the July 11, 2019, final EIS,” Mark Baldonado said. “Therefore, we respectfully request that you reject the final EIS for the petition to amend the land use district boundaries from the agricultural district into urban district for the 53.4 acres Kealia Mauak homesites project. Although we support affordable housing for Kauai residents, the project as proposed does not fulfill the need for affordable housing. At this time we request intervener status in this process.”
Baldanado said there were over 30 collected signatures from Kealia residents against the subdivision.
“It doesn’t feel like it is going in a very harmonious direction, especially with the land use,” Penny Prior said. “I totally understand the idea of needing to have more affordable housing. I am definitely for that, but I am not convinced that this project will end up that way for the residents of Kauai.”
Prior said she is also concerned about the traffic element the subdivision will add.
“I personally would be all for affordable homes similar to the two Kealia rural tracts now,” said Julie Black Caspillo, who has been a real estate broker on Kauai since 1984. “That would be 36. That’s all they were going to do, 235 home sites, I feel that there will be no guarantee that they’ll be sold at affordable range.”
Several expressed their support for the project throughout the meeting, including former mayor Bernard Carvahlo Jr., who had his son read a supporting statement to the commission in his absence.
There was a sincere attempt to achieve a win-win situation, Bruce Laymen said of Peter Nolan, later telling the commission that no traditional hunting or kalo farming takes places on the land where the proposed subdivision would sit.
“Today we are here to lend our support for approval of this EIS petition,” said Larry Graff, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Community Development Corporation. “We have been in communication with the developer’s representatives and we believe their goals and intent are to provide as many truly affordable homes as possible for the residents of Kauai.”
The land commission opted to recess the meeting until Aug. 8. at a location that has yet to be determined. If the commission fails to vote on the acceptance of the EIS, it will be accepted. The only way the EIS will be rejected is through a no vote from the land commission at the August meeting.