Kauai County "Keep Kauai Rural!"

SUBHEAD: The County of Kauai and its consultants have forsaken "Rural" Kauai in lieu of "Suburban" development

By Juan Wilson on 17 November 2016 for Island Breath - 

Image above: Looks like mainland suburbs to me! Aerial rendering of Lima Ola development with Eleele Iluna housing Phase I & II to the left, Eleele to the upper left and A&B land to the right. Click to enlarge. From (http://limaolakauai.net/).

"If you build it they will come." Field of Dreams movie, 1989


Comments on the update of the Kauai General Plan will be taken up to 16 December 2016. This is an extension of the previous date of 12/2/16.

Comments to the draft can be emailed to plankauai@kauai.gov

or snail-mailed to:
Kauai County Planning Department,
Attention: Long Range Division
4444 Rice Street, Suite A473, LÄ«hue, HI 96766.

See more at (http://plankauai.com/)

This issue of growth is our "Standing Rock". I recommend that the County instruct the Planning Department to abandon the current process of updating the Kauai General Plan 2000. It primarily dictates assigning Agriculture land as Urban in order to provide land for suburban development. The Kauai General Plan 2020-2035 should look to have that Agricultural land designated Rural land to meet the needs of self reliance in the future. It would also follow the will of the people: "KEEP KAUAI RURAL!"

Moreover, schemes like that of the Kauai Division of Housing to build Lima Ola as an automobile- centric bedroom community with no stores, shops or places of employment will only force people into their cars to buy a quart of milk or to make the money to pay for it.  There will be a great increase in traffic, both to the Big Save plaza to shop, and to Lihue for jobs.  As "Urban" land  it will also not allow people to live a rural, self reliant lifestyle.

When I first came to Kauai in 1971 the population of the island was less than half of what it is today. I even don't remember where there were traffic light stops, but then all the cane fields were operating and there were plenty of orange cane haul truck crossing lights.

Back in the early 1970's there was little highway traffic. Tourists often did not need a rental car and spent time at destination resorts which provided entertainment and coordinated site seeing bus tours. Most people did not have to do a daily commute across the island for work. Many sugar cane and pineapple workers lived in housing adjacent to or embedded in the fields. 

And those cane truck roads were a highway for locals to many places you cannot get to today, like beaches and waterfalls, and hiking trails. Most Kauai people over sixty could reach a number of beaches, waterfalls, slippery slides, campsites and trails that are now off limits due to private residential development.

Now local people are pretty much confined to be in there home, at school, at work or in a county beach park. The tourists are pretty much regulated to commercial zip-lines, river tubing and ATV adventures.

It was the rural nature and charm of Kauai that made living here worthwhile and special. The natural beauty of the island makai (ocean side) and mauka (mountain side) allowed playing, fishing, farming, hunting. People didn't live on Kauai for its nightlife and unless you were to include camping.

The only major shopping plaza stood where the Kauai County offices are today. It had a supermarket and Liberty House department store and not much more. There was no Kukui Grove mall. The Coconut Marketplace was still in the planning stage.

As was demonstrated in the 1960s in places like Nassau County in New York and Orange County in California, there was big money to be made paving over potato farms and orange groves for ticky-tacky suburbia. Agriculture was subsumed into Car Culture. 

As the pressure to suburbanize Kauai was getting underway the county put together a plan with the purpose of steering "development" in a direction that the people on the island wanted.

The County of Kauai General Plan released in 2000 was done in 1998-99 was produced to guide the future of Kauai into the 21st century. It was developed with a good deal of local community interaction. The most important message the people of Kauai had for the County Government was "KEEP KAUAI RURAL". The Kauai General Plan was progressive and ambitious.

I live in Hanapepe and am most familiar with the south and west side of Kauai. West of Hanapepe most privately owned land is Robinson Family Property and east of Hanapepe is mostly Alexander & Baldwin properties. In the past both were mostly sugarcane plantations sprinkled with small residential communities known as camps.

Only a small relic of those communities persist in places like Kamakani and Pakala. They have been fairly self sustaining with vegetable gardens, chicken coops, dog kennels, and pigs styes, with access to fishing, hunting and horse riding. That is rural living.

There are also areas of rural living in valleys like Hanapepe, Makaweli and Waimea as well. But overall communities like Eleele, Hanapepe Heights, Waimea Town and Kekaha are suburban - not rural. In fact many rural activities mentioned above are now prohibited.

Unfortunately, within the time frame of that plan the sugar and pineapple plantations were faltering across the state. The big agland owners on Kauai like Grove Farms and Alexander & Baldwin realized that the land they controlled was no longer as profitable.

Over a decade ago I was privileged to see several of Alexander & Baldwin's annual corporate reports that were provided to corporate shareholders. It was clear reading them what the long range plan was. A&B holds over 3,000 acres along the south shore of Kauai stretching from Poipu to Hanapepe that is designated for Agriculture use. A&B has working to redesignate that property as Urban and that is the only way to convert that land into Suburbia.  

Selling out the land as either the most expensive real estates acreage, or densest housing development possible, was the most profitable liquidation plan for them. After taking the cue from Dole on Oahu they began suburbanization with zest. They began the high-end development of Kukuiula between Poipu and Laui Valley. One thing got in the way - the Great Recession of 2007-2008 when the housing bubble burst.
But how to recover and accomplish the goal now with the current restrictions land usage in Hawaii? Convert Agriculture land into Urban land and fill it with small parcels on cul-de-sacs.

As of now the Hawaii State Land Use Commission (LUC) designates only four approved State Land Uses (SLU) on Kauai (followed by percent of island land areas) - Conservation (48.8% or 194,720 acres), Agricultural (47.4% 190,391 acres), Urban (3.5% 14,865 acres) and Rural (.3% 1,374acres).
Conservation lands are comprised primarily of lands in existing forest and water reserve zones and include areas necessary for protecting watersheds and water sources, scenic and historic areas, parks, wilderness, open space, recreational areas, habitats of endemic plants, fish and wildlife, and all submerged lands seaward of the shoreline. The conservation District also includes lands subject to flooding and soil erosion.
Conservation Districts are administrated by the State Board of Land and Natural Resources and uses are governed by rules promulgated by the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Agricultural District includes lands for the cultivation of crops, aquaculture, raising livestock, wind energy facility, timber cultivation, agriculture-support activities (i.e., mills, employee quarters, etc.) and land with significant potential for agriculture uses. Golf courses and golf-related activities approved by a county before July 1, 2005, may be allowed in this district, otherwise such new facilities would be prohibited.

Uses permitted in the highest productivity agricultural categories are governed by statute. Uses in the lower-productivity categories – C, D, E or U – are established by the Commission and include those allowed on A&B lands as well as those stated under Section 205-4.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The Urban District generally includes lands characterized by “city-like” concentrations of people, structures and services. This District also includes vacant areas for future development.
Jurisdiction of this district lies primarily with the respective counties. Generally, lot sizes and uses permitted in the district area are established by the respective county through ordinances or rules.
Rural Districts are composed primarily of small farms intermixed with low-density residential lots with a minimum size of one-half acre. Jurisdiction over Rural Districts is shared by the Commission and county governments.

Permitted uses include those relating or compatible to agricultural use and low-density residential lots. Variances can by obtained through the special use permitting process.
Conservation SLU is sacrosanct and won't be easily converted to suburban development. Suburban development can go on Urban SLU but there is not much left undeveloped. Because only a small percentage of land on Kauai is designated  Rural SLU,  not much development could go there.

Moreover, the Rural SLU designation requires at least half acre parcels and allows activities unacceptable to suburbanites like chicken coops, hunting dog kennels, goat or sheep pens, or manure piles. 

But Agricultural SLU covers almost half the island of Kauai. And its the large land owners like Grove Farms and A&B that own much of that land. 

As an architect-planner my experience with the Kauai Planning Department is that they are working to transform Kauai into what is in effect an outlying suburb of Oahu -  Think another Mililani (pop. 48,000) and Kaneohe (pop. 34,000) here on Kauai. What could possibly be less sustainable on the most isolated landmass in the world?

Image above: Page 37 from Kauai Plan Closing Workshop on Hanapepe-Eleele showing the expansion of the Urban Neighborhood center, Neighborhood General, Neighborhood Edge and Residential Community "doubling" in area. Note the proposed Lina Ola project is the yellow area in the upper right down through the light orange down to Route 540 about 2/3 down this image. From (http://plankauai.com/wp-content/uploads/2015_1104_HanapepeEleeleClosing-1.pdf).

As you probably know if you live on Kauai, the big land owners and County government are hell bent to resume the hyper development that was on track a decade ago and went bust in the financial crackup in 2007-08.

The Kauai County Planning Department is working with Opticos Design Inc, a mainland California design firm, to conduct community meetings and produce a newly updated Kauai General Plan for 2020-2035 to guide us into the future.

From what I can see there is nothing more to this plan to date than spreading more suburbia across the island.

The Introduction to the proposed General Plan update begins with the subtitle:

"Kauai is at a Crossroads"
... The island is at a crossroads on an array of issues, and many attribute this overwhelming sense of vulnerability and insecurity to a common source: growth.

Let's agree about that but the next subhead reads:

"Growth is Happening Whether We Like It or Not"
... The desire for and need to manage growth is the primary driver behind long range planning.
I take exception to every word of that. We live on a finite isolated island on a finite and isolated planet. We can stop growth with a steady state population on a local and planetary level or go extinct soon.

What the plan proposes in new development is not Rural and not Urban but actually suburban and it will go on land that is currently capable of supporting food, fiber and timber production. Converting it to suburbia will only increase our dependency of failing mainland agriculture.

Last night I attended a meeting of the Hanapepe-Eleele Community Association. Jerry Mackler, Kauai Planner presented the Kauai County Housing Division plan for Lima Ola. The Housing Division has bought 75 acres of land adjacent to the the recent Habitat for Humanity self-built housing project on the south side of Kaumaalii Highway in Eleele from A&B.  They plan to spend over $50 million to develop it.

That land that is now growing coffee. The Housing Division intends to build single and multifamily residential buildings there once they get approval to change the SLU from Agricultural to Urban.

When I mentioned that the planned housing was not within a walkable distance for most residents of Lima Ola to the nearest commercial area at Eleele Shopping Plaza and that people were likely to drive there and back to home for a pint of milk or a candy bar, Mr. Mackler agreed.

When I mentioned that Lima Ola could have included a few small corner retail stores or shops to substantially cut back on need to drive to nearby Eleele, Mr. Mackler  said that was not possible because Alexander & Baldwin would not permit that as a condition of the sale of the Lima Ola land.

When I asked Mr. Mackler if that because Alexander & Baldwin has plans to build commercial mall on adjacent Agriculture fields converted to Urban use he agreed that was the reason. 

Mr. Mackler spoke highly of Habitat for Humanity and their self-built affordable home sites in Eleele and  Eleele Ilima, a new affordable housing project  now currently under construction by Habitat but being expedited by contractors, adjacent just to the northeast of the Lima Ola site. He mentioned that the Lima Ola planning coordinated with the Habitat site for continuity of easements and other features.

Image above: On top are the 18 units of sweat equity Habitat for Humanity housing in Phase One of Eleele Iluna. Below are the additional single family homes built by contractors in Phase Two. Click to enlarge. From (http://kauaihabitat.org/about-us/our-builds/eleele-iluna/).

You can see the pattern. Start small and get bigger.
  • Begin on the west end of the A&B agricultural land near the industrial section of Port Allen. Habitat for Humanities has future owners put in sweat equity to build 18 homes has a first phase Eleele Iluna, a new affordable housing near Eleele existing low cost housing south of the Kaumalii Highway.
  • Next have contractors frame out and roof Phase II of the Eleele Iluna project next door with 48 units and a end goal of of 107 single family homes.
  • Next have Lima Ola through the County of Kauai, raise $50 million dollars to build 550 units of multi-family and single-family dwellings next to Eleele Iluna Phase II.
  • Next have A&B roll out a few thousands of acres of sprawl with a mall. 
Oh yeah. That! James Kunstler wrote the book in 2005. In it he perceived collapse in a way few had. That collapse began in 2007-08 under the leadership of George W. Bush. It played out a the pop of a huge housing bubble.

Since then it has taken many trillions of dollars to paper over that hole. Many of the people whose thoughts I respect most are feeling the next shoe drop. Nothing really got fixed. The USA printed money and charged nothing to banks to dip their beaks. The USA gave people no interest on their savings. The USA pretended their was no unemployment.

Now that Donald Trump is taking over his experience with bankruptcy should prove useful as we enter the next peak on this roller coaster.

Living in communities that provide their own useful work, food, energy, recreation and entertainment will be a requirement after the barges and jets stop delivery for Amazon and Ebay. Lima Ola and the A & B sprawl would be better off rural - just like the people of Kauai envisioned.  "KEEP KAUAI RURAL!"  

See also:
Kauai County General Plan 2000-2020 x
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai General Plan Update 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Plan Disappoints 12/9/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Tax Donkey Purgatory - Lima Ola 7/18/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Lihue Loss of Vision 9/5/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Kilauea Development on Agland 4/9/11
Ea O Ka Aina: If a tyrant developed Kauai 3/24/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Potash King's Palace 6/24/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Farm Worker Housing 7/14/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Let Moloaa farmers farm 4/2/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai General Plan 4/2/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Peak Oil Planning 1/29/09
Island Breath: Kauai Sustainable Land Use Plan 11/1/07
Island Breath: LEGS Sustainability Conference 10/13/07

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