Kauai General Plan open house

SUBHEAD: Waimea hosted a westside community meeting on proposed County General Plan update.

By Juan Wilson on 8 December 2016 for Island Breath -

Image above: Kauai Planning Department Deputy Director Kaaina Hull explaining the General Plan Update as shown on the presentation boards for Waimea and Hanapepe. Photo by Juan Wilson.

On December 5th, 2016 I attended the Kauai Planning Department Open House on the Kauai General Plan Update proposal at the Waimea Theater.

About 25 people attended the meeting. When I arrived, just before 5:30pm, Leanora Kaiaokamalie (Lea) was setting up presentation boards in the lobby of the Waimea Theater and other staff were setting up tripods with boards of the General Plan proposal in front of the stage.

I asked Lea about setting up boards that I had done concerning the general plan including material I presented to HENA (Hanapepe Eleele Neighborhood Association). These consisted of material I have shared with HENA and material on my website.

She said I would have to wait until her boss arrived. The boss being Kaaina Hull, the Deputy Director of the Kauai Planning Department.

Ken Taylor arrived about that time with his own presentation boards. Ken showed me his boards showing his estimate of property tax increases that the plan's execution would require.

Kaaina Hull was late arriving so Ken and I set up our presentation material at the back of the theater. We engaged with some of the public that were interested and I handed out some presentation material.

Once Kaaina got to the theater the the open house activity got under way. In front of the Hanapepe-Eleele tripod board I engaged Lea in a conversation of the “neighborhood “rings” that seem a core concept across all of Kauai's community population clusters.

Walking Distance and Density
The proposed General Plan describes these "rings" as defined as neighborhoods characterized by walking distance to the community centers.

First I asked her if the names and colors of the nested rings might also relate to greater density at the core and lesser density at the perimeter. A gradient from red (Neighborhood Center), to red-orange (neighborhood General) to orange (Neighborhood Edge) to yellow (Residential Community). Lea  said that was “correct”.

I then asked her if the Planning Department had numbers with the ranges of density to these areas. I asked because I did not see that information in the Kauai General Plan Update Proposal or on the Kauai Plan website. Lea said there were such numbers, but they were not in the public presentation material.

When asked what the density numbers were she said one would have to go online and find them. She said they were buried in “Resources” on the website, but could not give link information or further detail.

One piece of information I have been trying to discover is the growth in population on Kauai that a build-out of proposed General Plan implies. For Hanapepe-Eleele area I have used the upcoming Lima Ola "affordable housing" project developed by the Kauai Housing Division on 75 acres of Alexander & Baldwin property adjacent to Eleele and south of the Kaumaalii Highway.

The Lima Ola project has proposed 550 units in single family, and multi-unit multi-story housing. The Lima Ola project takes up the bulk of the  "Residential Community" in the west Eleele area. The 550 units on 75 acres means 7.33 units per acre.

Using the average number of residence per unit on Kauai of 2.99 this means a population increase of 1,645 people. Projecting that level of development  across the greater Hanapepe-Eleele area could increase the population from 5,028 residents (in the 2010 US Census) to 13,545 new residents, or an increase of 269% people.

Later, after people had a chance to see the material and talk to Planning staff Lea handed the meeting over to Kaaina. He did an overview of the Planning Department effort and the prominent elements of the plan.

Population needs and Hazard planning
He took questions as he spoke, and I asked him why they were showing concentric rings crossing from Hanapepe Heights to Eleele that crossed the breadth of the Hanapepe Valley. I pointed out there was no ring because the landscape could not be traversed between the Heights and Eleele. One had to descend to the hazard area flood plain negating the “ring” function”.

I mentioned that in fact many assets of the community in the river valley would likely have to be abandoned as the hazard area now included our only area firehouse, neighborhood center, and library.

With the possible projected population increase and response to global warming, sea rise and tsunami/hurricane threats to low lying areas, it is likely that some of these community services would have to be expanded and placed at higher elevations.

This would include an additional elementary school in Hanapepe Heights, a neighborhood center in both Hanapepe Heights and Eleele, and a fire house in both neighborhoods.  The fire house would be needed in both locations because the flooding hazard zone has been increased to cross the Kaumaalii Highway and disaster relief and fire fighting might be unable to cross the valley floor.

Rationale for Population Planning
Kaaina made the case that there were compelling reasons the Planning Department had to plan for more housing on Kauai. One reason was the need for "affordable" housing so that the younger generation, our children, could stay on the island.

But also, the Planning Department also anticipated large increase in population on Kauai over the next few generation that necessitated the great expansion proposed in the General Plan update. Their study had shown a Kauai population increasing greatly going out to 2035.

Kaaina said that the bulk of that population increase would not be from the American mainland arrivals or foreign immigrants moving to Kauai. He said The bulk was from “Natural” population growth.

He explained that this was because local people’s births exceeded deaths by between 1% to 2% a year. He stated that it was “unconstitutional” to limit reproductive rights of Americans. Thus the extrapolation of that birth "excess" through 2035 necessitated the current update plan.

The Planning Department has put no other reason to accommodate a doubling of the population of Kauai that I am aware of.

I counter that the the plan will damage the island in many ways. The ecosystem will be threatened in ways not seen before (even discounting global warming, rising seas and less regular rain.) The cost of mitigating the negative effects of greatly increasing Kauai’s population  is not affordable.
  • It means more schools need to be built.
  • It means existing highways widened and new highways created. 
  • It means new recreational, sports, and community services with have to be provided.
  • It means greater impact on our delicate natural resources too. 
There are things that cannot be mitigated with "planning". You cannot manufacture additional sandy beaches. As it is, our sandy beaches are threatened by coral die-off, global warming, and sea rise, Just imagine Salt Pond Beach Park with triple the parking needs and Sunday crowds in 2035.

Natural Growth can be Adjusted
I said to Kaaina that the argument that "natural" growth demands we suburbanize Kauai like has happened on Oahu and Maui is false.

My point is, wouldn’t it be much cheaper and more desirable to mitigate the impact of 1-2% “natural” population growth through education, incentives, and other benign motivators. Statistically parents who restrict their offspring to two or less are better educated and do better financially. A birthrate a wee bit higher than two per family can support a steady total population as there is some unfortunate child mortality.

Does the Planning Department mean to say that we have so little self control that we must destroy the island’s nature, charm, culture to accommodate unborn hoards. 

Incentives and education are much less expensive than paving over the landscape building new highways, schools and other infrastructure. The island could even remain rural and be where you wanted to live… meaning living within Kauai’s natural beauty … not just seeing it afar from end of your suburban cul-de-sac amid the sprawl.

Again the Deadline to respond to the General Plan update is December 16th 2016. Island Breath recommends that the Kauai General Plan Update not be adopted as planned. It should be rejected.  A New approach is needed to marginally reduce "natural" population growth and avoid thus avoid unaffordable infrastucture costs as well as environmental and resource degradation.

The plan as written will make Kauai less resilient, and more dependent on off island resources for food and energy. "KEEP KAUAI RURAL!"

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 also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Reject the Kauai General Plan Update 11/30/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai County "Keep it Rural" 11/17/16
Kauai County General Plan 2000-2020 undated
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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