Residents share feedback on Waimea400 planning

WAIMEA — With another round of community feedback, the county is continuing to narrow down exactly what the master plan for the Waimea 400 site will look like.

Earlier this summer, the county released three alternative conceptual designs, one that maintains the ditches, one that excavates the fill, and one that restores the natural waterways for this 417-acre parcel mauka of Kaumuali‘i Highway between Waimea and Kekaha.

Nearly half of survey respondents showed favor for the third option, which would prioritize returning the land to its natural state. After discussion and community-feedback sessions, a new draft conceptual master plan was presented last week honoring that.

“In the attempt to return natural flows, we don’t know what that impact is,” PBR Hawai‘i’s Kimi Yuen said during a Zoom meeting held Wednesday presenting the plan. “It’s just more of a statement that in the county’s next set of studies and the hydrology to get an understanding and to plan for this area becoming a resource in terms of where the water would collect.”

With this, some of the most-important aspects to consider are drainage, and how any feature of the project would be affected by the various zones and levels at which water accumulates.

“We understand that the ditches aren’t technically irrigation ditches like you might be used to, where you’re bringing mauka waterflow down to irrigate the land,” Yuen said. “We understand a lot of the ditches are actually drainage ditches. They’re sumps. They’re collections of the water because the area tends to get inundated.”

All three of the previously presented conceptual plans incorporate housing, an active park, primary agriculture, processing and shooting range with a pedestrian multi-use path through the land. Community members noted that these alternatives lacked a playground, splash pad and trees or shade. The new plan is available for view at waimea400.com.

A portion of the Waimea 400 site was purchased using the County Housing Development Fund, which came with stipulations on the affordability of any housing developed on the site. At this time, the county has determined that the housing will serve those at or below 120% of the area median income.

In Waimea, that would be to $85,550 per year or less for a single-person household or $122,200 per year or less for a four-person household, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Only about 40 acres of the land is suitable for housing, in the northeastern quadrant by an existing subdivision.

Community members have voiced a desire for transitional housing and smaller-scale housing. Prioritizing local community and workforce housing was also important for the area.

“Some folks from the community gave examples of this kind of — they’re not quite mobile homes — cottage-sized homes, just like old-traditional, plantation-style homes that were built here in posts, and you could move them around,” Yuen said.

Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull said the team is “closing in” on the project.

“A master plan, at the end of the day, is still a conceptual plan at the 50,000-foot view that allows for property owners, in this case, the County of Kaua‘i on behalf of the citizens of Westside, to have a general direction and a general idea of where we’ll go over the next 10 to 20 years with this property,” Hull said.

The next steps will be for the county to make edits to the conceptual master plan and present it in late August.

There will be another in-person talk story about the plan at Waimea Public Library at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4. To reserve a spot, call Branch Manager Michelle Young at 338-6848.

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