Over 700 respond to county’s Waimea 400 survey

LIHU‘E — Affordable housing. A walking path. Outdoor amenities.

These are just some of what community members want to see prioritized in the Waimea 400 Master Plan.

The county’s in listening mode, continuing to gather community weigh-in on the development plan for 417-acres between Kekaha and Waimea, mauka of Kaumali‘i Highway, that the county purchased in 2019 for $5.3 million. The final plan is targeted for completion by the end of the summer.

Last month, the county hosted two Waimea 400 Master Plan community-collaboration virtual meetings, presenting over 700 pieces of survey input from earlier this year.

Nearly 400 responders wished to see a walking path in the area, and over 300 made note of the need for outdoor amenities like areas of shade and bathrooms.

Community members also listed the want for a sports complex, a community garden, and more farming and agriculture ventures like a farmers’ market on the property.

But at the top of the list was an outcry for affordable, single-family housing.

When the county purchased the land from Kikiaola Land Company, the company stipulated that a portion of the property be designated for affordable housing. Only about 40 acres of the land area is suitable for housing, in the eastern quadrant.

Survey answers came from those with beloved memories of the land, some recounting their experiences riding bicycles and walking through the cane roads or sharing stories of employment at Kekaha Sugar. Others remembered the smells of charcoal and Waimea Dairy.

The West Side Community Plan, which wrapped up last year, has already designated this area as a walkable neighborhood for mixed-use residential development, and the rest of the parcel has been designated for park use, including recreation or gardens.

The difference between the WSCP and Waimea 400 is only slight. The WSCP sets guidance for the entire Westside, from ‘Ele‘ele to Kekaha.

“In the (West Kaua‘i Community Plan) itself, we’re looking at private property, state properties, and providing rules and regulations that may compel a landowner to do something or prohibit them from doing something,” Planning Department Director Ka‘aina Hull said during a March meeting.

This Waimea 400 Master Plan, specific to the 417 acres, will address community desires and needs, a wishlist of sorts, that will set the county into action.

“Now we can master-plan and decide what you folks want there,” Hull said. “Do you want housing? Do you want paths or parks? Do you want to preserve it and not have any development?”

PBR Hawai‘i, an O‘ahu-based planning contractor, is working in partnership with the county’s Planning Department.

Kimi Yuen of PBR said the master plan is “setting the vision for the lands (that) can be (used) in the future.”

Based on community input, PBR will provide conceptual master plans that will be presented. After more community input, there’ll be another concept plan before a final document. After that, the county would need to do an environmental impact statement, go through land-use entitlements and find funding before design and construction can take place.

The plan will also address chronic flooding, sea-level rise and infrastructure.

The parcel is already home to the county Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant and, prior to county ownership, some land has been leased for an asphalt base yard and the production of alfalfa.

Last year, the county built an overflow parking lot on the west side of Waimea Canyon Park. Currently, the land is being cleared of overgrowth.

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