LIHU‘E — Two days of state Land Use Commission testimony regarding a petition to rezone land for development in Kapa‘a came to a head Thursday afternoon when commissioners voiced concerns that the petitioner, developer HG Kaua‘i Joint Ventures, LLC, had not met the requirements to move forward in the case.
HoKua Place sets out to be a $337 million development to build 86 single-family lots with 683 multi-family units, neighborhood commercial center and community park.
“A number of the commissioners have already during the presentation of the petition’s case expressed some significant concerns,” LUC Chair Likeke Scheuer said. “I’d like to give the commission a moment to discuss these matters.”
Commissioner Gary Okuda moved to dismiss or deny the petition to rezone 97 acres of agricultural land to urban district land to develop the property near Kapa‘a Middle School.
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Dan Giovanni, who represents Kaua‘i.
“The petitioner seeking the boundary amendment has the burden of proof, the burden of persuasion and the burden coming forth with the evidence,” Okuda said. Statue allows the commission to dismiss the petition if the evidence is insufficient. “In this case here, I believe, even taking a very easy (look and) in the light most favorable to the petitioner, the petitioner simply has not met its burden of proof.”
Okuda said this is based on a substandard final environmental impact statement. He pointed to testimony made by engineer William Bow on March 25.
During that meeting, Okuda asked if the EIS should include more-relevant information regarding wetlands. To that, Bow said “yes,” in his professional opinion. During the testimony, Bow also suggested that rainfall data needed to be updated.
Okuda also said that testimony from Cody Winchester, who spoke on environmental and urban planning, demonstrated the developer had not followed Ka Pa‘aka standards, which deal with the extent of which cultural resources are impacted.
“I went back, and I assure everyone, I’ve gone back and I’ve read the transcripts, just to be sure that my recollection is not wrong,” Okuda said.
Giovanni said his concerns are three-fold: the final EIS the LUC accepted in 2019, the project is in conflict with the community, and the burden of persuasion has not been met.
“What I have learned in this evidence that’s been brought forth in this docket has convinced me that (the developer) did not meet that bar (for the EIS),” Giovanni said. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have argued strenuously not to accept the (EIS) at the time.”
In areas such as traffic, wastewater, stormwater, infrastructure, wetlands use and affordable housing, Giovanni said he has not been persuaded that the developer has done its due diligence to properly study the proposal.
Had Okuda not made the motion, the intervener had plans to make a motion to dismiss. Since March, the commission has been continuing a hearing after a November intervention from Liko Martin against the petition to rezone.
The petitioner rested its case Thursday, following discussion of cultural practices, urban planning and real-estate economics Wednesday and Thursday, when Okuda made the motion.
“If the pending motion to dismiss is granted, the decision by the LUC will be very welcomed by a community that filed hundreds of letters in opposition,” Friends of Maha‘ulepu said in a statement. “Bottom line, the LUC motion (Thursday) supports the public outcry. It’s time to tell developers enough is enough!”
The petitioner requested a written briefing from all parties on whether or not the petitioner has met its burden of proof. Oral arguments will be on June 10 before the LUC.