Kauai Plan disappoints

SUBHEAD: The Kauai Planning department doesn't see solutions and does not understand the future rushing at us.

By Juan Wilson on 9 December 2015 for Island Breath -

Image above: In this map from the Kauai Planning Department the proposed future land use categories the two lighter orange colored areas are mostly on state designated Agricultural and Rural land use areas and would in the future be used for suburban development. Click to enlarge. See links below for source.

The proposed General Plan map of the Hanapepe-Eleele area is above. Click on it to enlarge. It's from the Closing Presentation put together by the Planning Department. If I read it correctly and if the plan were fulfilled, the population of the area will be doubled.

One of the few areas on the island designated by the State as "Rural Use" would be re-characterized as "Neighborhood Edge and Neighborhood General. I have lived in the middle of the Rural Use area for 15 years.

This rural area supports acres of taro, has many productive home food gardens as well as a large canopy of trees supports birds and bees). The taro fields support Koloa ducks, egrets, other aquatic birds.  This area will be getting the same planning designation as Eleele.

And for those of you that don't now Eleele's character you should now that means small suburban lots in a maze of cul-de-sacs near a shopping plaza with a McDonalds.

The plan, in fact, proposes a deep ring of urban/suburban development with Old Hanapepe town as its center. It appears that about two-thirds of that suburban area is on what is now designated "Agriculture".

Before we go on, let's take a look back at the last General Plan of 15 years ago.

In the late 1990's the County developed the 2000 Kauai General Plan (see http://www.kauai.gov/Portals/0/planning/GeneralPlan/Ch1.PDF).   It's chapters were titled:
  1. Planning for the Future
  2. Vision for Kauai 2020
  3. Caring for Land, Water and Culture
  4. Developing Jobs and Business
  5. Preserving Kauai’s Rural Character
  6. Enhancing Towns & Communities and Providing for Growth
  7. Building Public Facilities and Services
  8. Improving Housing, Parks and Schools
  9. Implementation
Note that the first specific item on the list was  "Caring for Land, Water and Culture"

Back then the sugar industry was beginning its long descent into oblivion and the agricultural jobs were dwindling. A pressing need seemed to be "Developing Jobs and Business". This was an understandable concern for residents whose jobs were lost or threatened.

Next on list of  issues was "Preserving Kauai’s Rural Character". That was ahead of "Enhancing Towns & Communities and Providing for Growth". Now I'm all for enhancing towns and communities, but that last bit "Providing for Growth" is the kicker. That's really what Planning Departments are all about.

Since I first visited Kauai in 1971 (when the only impediment to driving around the island was the occasional blinking orange light at a cane-haul truck crossing) until when I moved here in 2001 there has been a doubling of the population living on Kauai. From about 30,000 to about 60,000.

The current proposed update to the General Plan is setting its sites on "Providing for Growth". I suppose that means an attempt to rekindle the housing bubble that burst in 2008. Most of those contractors, subcontractors and daily workers that rode the boom were left high and dry.

About the only jobs, outside of government service, for most people on Kauai are positions as maids for hotels visitors, grounds keepers for rich people or scarecrows for GMO companies.

As far as "Caring for Land, Water and Culture" and "Preserving Kauai's Rural Character" the 2000 Kauai Plan has been a failure. Kauai has been suburbanized. This isn't just about living in a single family home on a cul-de-sac. This is about how you live on the land.

It is increasingly difficult to go to places that people used to go to enjoy life on this island. Whether its Kipu Falls, Oiiki Falls, Kapaa Slippery Slide, Papaa Bay Beach, or Barking Sands, it is getting increasingly harder to get to places on private and even public lands.

It's getting so the only place you will be permitted to go besides your home is the shopping mall, the supermarket or a permitted county beach park. That's not living on Kauai. That's like living in suburban Galveston, Texas.
As I have said many times, we here on Kauai don't live here for the night life or shopping. Among reasons we live here for the beauty and seclusion of the place.

If the new General Plan is as bad as that old  General Plan we are in for some real trouble.

Look at the world. Check out its ruin. Do you really think planning for doubling the population of Kauai once more is the answer to anything?

The real answer to the problems ahead are getting people back to local sustainability and resilience. Given the impacts of Global Warming, Climate Change and Rising Oceans( or GWROCC), many places already don't really have that option -  Arizona, Nevada, California, Florida... Oahu.

If GWROCC is not too severe we here in Hawaii could be self reliant. Hawaiians were  for centuries with possibly as big a population.

But if we do to the outer islands what has happened on Oahu then Hawaii won't be sustainable. We will suffer badly without the container ships and fuel tankers from the mainland.

If we plan on doubling the population of Kauai we can just kiss our asses a collective goodbye.

To see the plans I saw available for Hanapepe-Eleele, Waimea-Kekaha and the North Shore. Check out where you live and see if the build-out of what is proposed will be an enhancement. PDF files of the studies and proposals are linked below.
The last thing we need is striving for more growth!  In my opinion the Kauai Planning Commission and Planning Department has failed us. But that is no surprise. They have been the willing tools of the speculators and the developers. They do not see solutions and do not understand the future rushing at us.

On the upside - given the rate of economic deterioration and the likelihood of another bubble bursting bank fiasco -  those new cul-de-sacs will never be built. On the down side - we'll have wasted more time getting to where we need to go.


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