Billionaire's Agland Lawn Farm

SUBHEAD: Farmers are the backbone of our civilization -not billionaires. Image above: Cozy neighborhood "farms" on Crater Hill in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii. From GoogleEarth. Note tennis court and guest cabanas. [Editor's note: The planning and approval of projects like this illustrate the pathetic state of awareness of our county officials of what is best for Kauai and its residents. Sucking up to billionaires who want to escape the havoc they have brought about on the mainland should be discouraged.] By Leo Azambuja on 11 June 2010 for the Garden Island News - (

The first cities were developed around agricultural activities, which provided abundant and reliable food supplies.

But farming is not easy. It requires long hours of intensive labor. So it’s safe to say that farmers need a comfortable home, preferably located within the farm lands.

But would they really need a home with a dozen or so rooms, a theater and a gigantic swimming pool? The argument gets even hotter when the so-called farmers will hire outside labor to grow and harvest turf, which will only cover one acre out of a 16.95-acre property.

Roland Sagum III, from Applied Planning Systems, and Sean Combs, from Land Strategies Hawai‘i, came before the Planning Commission on Tuesday to represent their clients, Steven and Diane Dechka, applying for a Special Management Area use permit to build a “farm dwelling” in Seacliff Plantation near Crater Hill in Kilauea.

“The zoning is agricultural, the General Plan is agricultural and the state land use (designation) is agricultural,” said county planner Lisa Ellen Smith, reading the Planning Department report.

The proposed “residential farm-dwelling unit” will have four bedrooms including a master suite, three bathrooms, powder room, kitchen, living room, dining room, theater, wine/safe room, exercise room, family room, sitting room and a three-car garage.

The living area amounts to 5,930 square feet, plus a covered lanai of 1,777 square feet.

But because farmers work hard, they may also play hard. So a 4,513-square-foot swimming pool is also proposed.

The farm will have no storage shed, but the owners will use part of the 1,101-square-foot garage to store farming materials, Sagum said.

The “farm dwelling” lot will be accessible thanks to 8,505 square feet of driveways and sidewalks.

In order to not “adversely impact” the scenery, the structure will be painted in earth tones, while mirrored glass and reflective materials are prohibited, according to the report.

When Smith finished reading the report, some commissioners looked puzzled.

“Why do you call this a farm lot?” asked commissioner Herman Texeira. “I don’t understand it.”

Thanks to Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung, Texeira had a prompt answer.

It is a home in connection with a farm, said Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung, advising Texeira to look in the packet of written documents he received that contains the turf-farm plan.

But Texeira wasn’t about to give in. “Who are we kidding?” he asked.

Commissioner Hartwell Blake also had concerns.

“I don’t know why we continue to entertain this anomaly,” he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

The ‘farm’

About one acre fronting the property will be dedicated to the “sod farm.” Another half-acre wrapping alongside and on the back of the property will have fruit trees.

“We’re told there really is a shortage of certain types of grasses,” Sagum said.

Landscape contractor Lawrence Tachibana said the farm would produce sod at a minimum quantity, and the bulk of it would be for stolon production, or horizontal stems of grass.

Tachibana said landscapers currently import stolons. “There’s a demand for it,” he said.

Commissioner James Nishida said landscaping is a “good” industry.

“It’s good for the environment, I think. It supports nurseries,” he said.

“I saw you guys’ farm plan, I thought this is one good solution,” Nishida said. “The pay scale for landscapers tends to be more than agricultural labor.”

“It’s a big industry that needs to be supported too,” he said.

Commissioner Jan Kimura asked if Dechka could donate three acres for a grass farm.

“We’ll look into that, and we’ll see how we can make that happen,” Sagum said.

Nishida argued that more grass would require more water usage, but Kimura was quick to remind him that more grass would generate more sales.


Some commissioners may have questioned the real intent of the turf farm, but one thing is certain. The farm will never have a shortage of fertilizer.

Steven Dechka is the president and chief executive officer of Canpotex Ltd., a company based in Saskatchewan, Canada, that produces potash. Canpotex is the world’s largest exporter of potash, according to its website.

Potash is the common name for potassium carbonate. About 93 percent of the world’s potash consumption is used in fertilizers. Some of the world’s largest known deposits of potash are located in Saskatchewan.

The company has corporate offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Saskatoon and Vancouver. It sells a range of eight million to nine million metric tons of potash annually to markets that include Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.

The Saskatchewan Business Magazine ranked Canpotex as fourth in the top 100 Saskatchewan businesses in 2009. In the previous year the company was ranked sixth, and its gross sales receipts that year totaled $1.98 billion, according to the, the magazine’s website.

‘Hard to swallow’

“We know it’s the state law, we know it’s a farm dwelling. It’s kinda blatantly putting one big house, and saying you’re going to mow the stolons, and do the fruit,” said commission Chair Caven Raco.

“It’s kinda hard to swallow,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Raco said that “it’s not really a sod farm, it’s a stolon farm.”

For the untrained ear, it sounded like Raco said it was a “stolen farm.”


The commission deferred the decision to the June 22 meeting, when the applicant will have to show he fulfilled conditions from other government agencies.

Douglas Haigh, chief of the county Department of Public Works Building Division, submitted a signed document stating that the structure is outside the flood plain. The applicant will still be required to apply for building permits.

Gregg Fujikawa, chief of the Water Resources and Planning Division of the county Department of Water, said he has no objections to the proposed Special Management Area permit application.

The State Historic Preservation Division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources found no historic properties in the area.

Chief of the DPW Engineering Division, Wallace Kudo, and County Engineer Donald Fujimoto co-signed comments stating that part of the information on the SMA application is incomplete, thus should be rejected. The application was not even signed by the petitioner, the comments stated.

The county DPW Engineering Division also said the project will require grading, and plans for such should be developed by a licensed professional engineer.

Best-management practices should be a part of the applicant’s building plans.

The Condominium Property Regime maps are lacking the expiration date of land surveyor Ronald Wagner’s license, according to the Engineering Division. Hawai‘i Administrative Rules 16-115-9 state that the signed document “shall state the expiration date of the licensee.”

The state Department of Health also had a few recommendations regarding wastewater systems and solid-waste management, plus noise, pollution and water disposal during construction.

If the building area — including clearing, grading and excavation — is equal to or greater than one acre, the applicant has to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The building area of the proposed structures amounts to 21,826 square feet, but the actual area of consideration is greater than that because it should include the space in between structures.

All discharges related to the project must comply with the state water quality standards even if the applicant is not required to obtain an NPDES permit.

Non-compliance with water-quality and permit requirements, as specified in HAR 11-54 and 11-55, could lead to penalties of $25,000 per day per violation.



Anonymous said...

The article was written with a wicked sense of humor. Rare but refreshing to see that in a newspaper.

Anonymous said...

editor - on your note - The subdivision was permitted in what year? The entitlements (read density for the uneducated) was given at that time.

The article was amusing, albeit, bias, but your comments make you sound .....

Wahine Warrior said...

After my head stopped rotating on top of my neck, after becoming aware of this, and the steam ceased coming out of my ears, all I could think of was that the suspicious timing of all of these bills, TVR, Farm "worker" housing, and this ridiculous debacle of a "turf farm", smacks of something when you put it all together.

Any of you out there have any ideas?

I just got back from the most recent council meeting, and I now have a seriuos headache, after testifying on the TVR issue.

I never saw so many so called "farmers" trying to figure a way out of a law. I swear there were at least 8 attorneys in that room! There were more ties and jackets then t shirts and jeans!

SO you know what everyone is doing right?: Testing the water and everyones commitment level to sue if they do not get there way with what they want. All of the ag land on Kauai. For them and their mansions and vacation rentals.

And what do we get to do? Work their land, and clean their houses. Way to go. Thats looking foreward to the future, as one councilperson said that is what we should be doing.

I saw the version of the future that was laid out today. No thanks.

Post a Comment