Potash King's Palace

SUBHEAD: Kauai Planning Commission sucks up to billionaire who wants to escape to paradise from hell he created.
By Leo Azambuja on 24 June 2010 in The Garden Island News -

Image above: Looks like mars? No its a potash mine near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, Canada. A pile of tailings left over after the potash is processed, composed of clay, salt and brine. Photo by Martin Mraz, from (http://www.lightstalkers.org/images/show/756992).  

[IB Publisher's note: Roland Sagum is a planner and Kauai state legislator. He should be ashamed of representing the applicant in this cynical stunt. So should architect Anthony Romero. Apparently these men are willing to compromise our island if the client is rich enough. I suggest that Steve Dechka builds his palace at the site of one of his potash mines.]  

The county Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a “farm-dwelling,” roughly the size of a small residential lot, to be built on agricultural lands on the North Shore.

State law allows for farm dwellings to be built on ag lands as long as those dwelling are in connection with the farm. So Steven Dechka and his wife Diane plan be hire landscapers to farm turf on one acre of the 16.95-acre property at Seacliff Plantation, a gated community near Crater Hill in Kilauea.

Dechka should have no shortage of fertilizer for his “farm.” He is the chief executive officer and president of billion-dollar Canadian company Canpotex Ltd., the world’s largest exporter of potash, a main ingredient in farm fertilizers.

Dechka’s landscape contractor, Lawrence Tachibana, said at a June 8 meeting that there’s a demand on Kauai for the farm’s main produce, stolon, or horizontal stems of grass.

Roland Sagum, from Applied Planning Systems, also represented Dechka during the June 8 meeting before the commission.

“We’re told there really is a shortage for certain types of grass,” said Sagum, who also serves as the District 16 representative in the state Legislature.

When planner Lisa Ellen Smith finished reading Dechka’s application to the commission on June 8, commissioners sat silent for a few seconds.

Dechka requested a “farm dwelling” on land zoned agricultural, designated by the state land use as agricultural and identified by the general plan as agricultural.

The “farm-dwelling” 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, a laundry room, outdoor showers and a three-car garage.

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

The plans include a 4,513-square-foot pool area, a 1,101-square-foot three-car garage, and 8,505 square feet of driveways and sidewalks.

The total building area amounts to 21,826 square feet, nearly half an acre.

Architect Anthony Romero of Princeville designed the “farm-dwelling,” which will also include a spa, a fireplace, and a pond with five pot fountains and a 14-foot double-wall water fountain. The pond will surround the main bathroom, and extend past the theater and other rooms, linking to the garage and the exercise room.

Three decks made of ipe wood, running over the pond, will link the house to the garage and exercise room.

In addition to lower agricultural property tax rates, the real property tax office gives a tax break for safe rooms. Romero designed a wine/safe room which qualifies.

The commissioners questioned why the property was considered a farm at the June 8 meeting and ultimately deferred their decision two weeks because of unfulfilled requirements. The application resurfaced at the commission meeting Tuesday.

After the Dechkas showed that other government agencies’ conditions were met, the commission approved the request.

The Dechkas stood up smiling soon after the decision and were escorted out of the room by Tachibana and Sean Combs, from Land Strategies Hawaii, who was also representing the Dechkas.

Before approving the request, Commissioner Camilla Matsumoto said the state government is having trouble making sure agricultural activities are being conducted in such lands.

“I think that if you are in agricultural land it would be nice to support agriculture as a viable economic undertaking in the Islands,” she said.

At that moment, Chair Caven Raco looked at his colleagues and laughed.

“You know what I’m thinking, right? It’s kinda funny ... and perhaps it’s a coincidence, that the applicant has representation from somebody that has power in the Legislature,” said Raco, referring to Sagum.

Raco’s comments echoed his doubts when the application first came before the commission two weeks prior.

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

Image above: Steve Dechka (R) in Sao Paulo, in April 2007,with partners in Potafertz Fertilizers, a Brazilian company. Now imagine Steve in a silk ahoha shirt holding a fru fru drink. From (http://www.memoriamacaense.org/id211.html). 



lupe said...

juan, didn't you move here a few years back too? just like this guy?

your just like all the other transplants...you want your own little version of paradise, but do not want anyone else "spoiling" it

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Lupe,

Actually I moved here about ten years ago. I lived on Maui before that for a year. In 1999 I rented a house on the Big Island but had to leave after only a short while. I rented a house on Kauai 1n 1997.

Back in 1971-72 I lived in a VW van mostly on the south and west side of Kauai.

Back in 1968 I lived on Oahu and for a brief time on Maui.

And by the way, I never raped land I've owned or managed.

How about you? Kanaka maoli?

noel said...

Hey lupe, everyone's blood came here on a boat from somewhere else. The article informs us that this guy is making a mockery of the intent of Ag zoning. But you're OK with that, right? Or did you just totally miss the point?

If someone wants to spend their capital and start up a proper small Ag operation that should be welcome. But cynically using the law to his advantage to build a mansion is bullshit -but you don't see the difference, right?

I guess as far as you're concerned, he's just the same as a small farmer/gardener living in a 700sq ft cottage and working his/her ass off to nuture an acre or so of soil and supply fruit/veg to friends and the local market, right? No difference, eh?

When our food supplies get interrupted maybe you can go ask him for some of his fancy grass to eat.

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