WAIPOULI — On Thursday, the board of directors of Islander on the Beach resort rescinded approval of a plan to sell a parcel fronting the Waipouli property to the county.
In an email, the board cited misrepresentation on the part of the county.
IOB board member Bob MacCallum said the county had originally stated the plan was to use permeable pavers for the path, and has now switched to impervious concrete, which requires more maintenance. The area, residents said, has been known to flood, and adding impervious concrete will exacerbate the issue.
On Saturday, Doug Haigh, county Department of Public Works Building Division head, said the county had not received a letter rescinding approval of the easement.
A 0.3-mile segment of land in Waipouli is needed to fulfill plans to connect Ke Ala Hele Makalae multi-use coastal path from Lydgate Park through Kapa‘a.
This segment is currently owned by Islander on the Beach in Waipouli behind Coconut Marketplace, working south to the coast and east to the property edge of the Kaua‘i Coast Resort at the Beachboy.
Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council was to decide if it’s willing to purchase the easement for $24,300 through eminent domain.
This portion specifically deals with a fourth section of the path’s third phase of construction. The unpaved land is already traversed by the public through a county-owned, public-beach accessway.
On a walk-thru of the site, Kaua‘i Path Executive Director Tommy Noyes reiterated that the point of the path is its coastal nature. The land in question would provide vertical access toward the beach, making an accessible pathway.
“Ke Ala Hele Makalae was convened to and is successfully securing lateral coastal access in perpetuity for the public benefit while creating a world-class amenity,” Noyes said in a statement. The nonprofit acts as an advocacy and educational partner with the county.
Noyes said there have been “countless hours” spent on the project thus far, and concerns for seabirds, safety and environmental impact have already been resolved.
The project started in the mid-1990s, and a final environmental assessment was made in 2007, with the state, county and U.S. Department of Transportation, and a final environmental review wrapped in 2018. Public ho‘oponopono community meetings in 2012 and 2013 addressed archaeological and cultural concerns in this area.
“The county has complied with the environmental-review process for this project, and will continue to comply with all laws related to the protection of endangered and threatened species,” said Doug Haigh, county Department of Public Works Building Division chief said in an email.
According to Haigh, informal discussions with IOB began in 2014. In 2016 the resort’s board allowed the county to survey the property. In 2018, the Planning Commission issued a Special Management Area Use Permit and a Shoreline Setback Variance for this part of the path, according to Kaua‘i Path.
Haigh said the path is constructed per county shoreline-construction requirements, and “a commitment that the shoreline is not to be hardened to protect the path.”
In 2019, the county provided IOB its first offer.
The Islander on the Beach board of directors gave its approval of the final $24,300 price of the easement in 2020, but acknowledged it did not have the authority to sign easement documents without all 270 unit owners’ signatures.
Coastal path concerns
Sierra Club Kaua‘i Group Executive Committee Member Julio Magalhaes said the club would support an alternative route, further inland, and urged the council to see this vote as a “tough decision needed to address the climate crisis.”
”The Kaua‘i Group Sierra Club believes it is irresponsible to locate the multi-use path in a sea-level-rise area identified in the Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report issued by the Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission in 2017,” Magalhaes said Saturday.
“The recent extensive erosion at Wailua Beach next to the concrete multi-use path presents a cautionary tale on placing the path close to the coast. This major erosion should give great pause to the council as it considers Resolution 2021-13,” Magalhaes said, citing the resolution authorizing the acquisition.
Friday, the council received two petitions, one in favor of the condemnation and one against.
Kapa‘a resident Sally Jo Manea wrote to the council, stating the council should use its power to secure the land.
“Use this opportunity to continue to secure the coastal route in perpetuity for the public, as has been the intent of Ke Ala Hele Makalae since its inception,” Manea wrote. “Please do not be distracted by concerns that the physical structure would be damaged by coastal erosion. This is inevitable for all our coastal roadways, and is a separate issue. The issue here is public access.”
The county already owns an easement between Lava Lava Beach Club and Islander on the Beach that allows beach access. It needs an additional easement down the makai side of the IOB property for ample space to build the 12-foot path.
Just up the road from this site, the state’s Department of Transportation has placed sandbags along the already-built path in Wailua to protect Kuhio Highway. Federal dollars cannot be used for repairs of the path.
Retired county Eastside road crew Supervisor Steve Sarita, who frequently uses the path, expressed concern for the erosion he’s seen.
“The coastal erosion I have witnessed fronting these resorts would surely keep costing taxpayers money to fix if it isn’t re-rerouted further away from the coastline than now planned,” Sarita said.
Haigh said the county incorporated updated coastal-erosion studies in the plans.
“As we work on the final design, we consider the most-recent studies dealing with coastal erosion,” Haigh said. “We are currently reviewing a boardwalk alternative to the concrete path.”
Further north, in Kapa‘a, where the path spans a one-way section through Moanakai Road along Fuji Beach, residents there can open their door and step right onto the path, while others can find parking off the path in a “complete-streets” design.
The proximity of the path to IOB is a concern for some residents, specifically for a tight turn that would be blocked by one of the buildings.
“First, the very-unsafe conditions caused for visitors, locals and families with keiki crossing perpendicular through all the bicycle traffic passing through this narrow area many at very high speeds” is a huge, legitimate concern, said Trisha Lei Sears.
“Almost as serious is the inevitable negative effects resulting from putting it literally on top of this sensitive coastal area that’s already suffering from rising tides and extensive erosion.”
There have been no reported accidents along the path, according to the county.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.