LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved the Kilauea Lighthouse Village, an ambitious and controversial 46,800-square-foot mall in the heart of Kilauea Town.
The new shopping center will be on Kilauea Road, across the street from Kong Lung Center. The project includes buildings for a market, hardware store, auto-parts store, drugstore and pharmacy, health clinic, bank, food establishments and professional offices.
Despite the positive outcome for Hunt Development Group, the real estate investor behind the project, the road to approve the project was a bumpy one.
Much of the opposition from the project was based on potential harm to local businesses and also an increase in traffic, adding to more than 100,000 annual visitors who already drive to Kilauea Lighthouse just down the road.
At the end of a long meeting, and only after the developer’s assurance he would do everything in his power to mitigate traffic during construction, commissioners gave Kilauea Ventures, LLC the necessary permits to move the project forward.
The majority of the supporting testimony came from residents who wanted a more walkable town, with amenities such as grocery stores closer than Princeville and Kapa‘a. One of the those testimonies came from a 97-year-old Kilauea resident who is still fit to walk with the aid of a cane.
Kilauea resident David Dinner, however, said if the project was designed to accommodate only Kilauea residents it wouldn’t have to be so large.
“This is massive,” said Dinner, adding the project is designed to accommodate the thousands of visitors going through town daily, which is the only way such a large project could survive. “The project is too big for the town.”
The shopping center, he said, will bring everything to the center of town “in a very bad way.”
Others who supported the project said it would bring local jobs. But a Kilauea resident and business owner said that businesses in the area are barely getting by as it is.
“I don’t know how another big business will succeed,” she said.
Kilauea resident Ron Winnegar said “traffic is just ridiculous in the morning.”
Another Kilauea resident testifying said she had talked to many who were willing to support the project if a bypass road would be built.
But Matt Hunt, development manager at Hunt Group, said Ray McCormick from the state Department of Transportation told him a bypass road is at least five years away, and the county Public Works Department does not recommend full construction of a new entry road for Kilauea at this time.
Commission Chair Jan Kimura wanted an assurance that during construction, workers would use a temporary road in the back of the development, something he said he remembered Hunt had assured him at a previous meeting.
Hunt, however, said his company had not reached an agreement with Bill Hay, the owner of the land behind the mall, which inflamed Kimura’s temper.
“Don’t you think you should’ve done that before you came in here today?” said Kimura, adding that construction traffic in and out of Kilauea Road is “unacceptable” for residents.
Hunt would not say how far along he was in discussions with Hay.
“It’s a public roadway,” Hunt said of Kilauea Road, adding that he would take measures to alleviate the traffic in the area in case an agreement for a back road could not be reached.
Kimura said his decision could be based on the traffic problems.
Hunt’s attorney, Lorna Nishimitsu, said to impose such conditions could make the project unattainable.
After recess called by Kimura to consult with the county attorney, Hay came forward and said he was willing to work out an agreement with Hunt.
The Planning Department added a condition to the permits, stating Hunt would take action to alleviate the traffic if he is not able to secure access to the back of the construction site.