LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Planning Commission on Tuesday approved an office building in Hanalei in the front portion of a highway-facing lot, despite the outcry of members of the Hanalei to Ha‘ena Community Association, who wanted the building far from the highway as possible.
As one of the last commercial lots in Hanalei was about to be developed, project representatives met with the association and together they decided it was best to place the office building in the back of the lot to keep the town’s rural character going.
“Let Hanalei be Hanalei, we’re pretty good at it,” North Shore resident Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana told the commission.
But the Planning Department says what is rural is removing two mature trees and putting the building in front of the lot, with a parking lot in the back, thus avoiding a “7-Eleven” look.
“Do we continue to design communities with a look that has a focus on cars?” Planning Director Michael Dahilig said.
North Shore resident Carl Imparato said the issue boils down to the department believing it knows better what is best for the North Shore community.
“I ask the commission to give serious considerations for the community’s recommendations and desires,” he said.
Ka‘aumoana echoed Imparato’s pleas. She said was concerned with this “Big Brother nature” of the department telling Hanalei residents what is good for them.
With Dahilig saying one thing is rural, and the community association saying just the opposite, the commission sided with the county.
The original proposal presented to the department was of a single-story building in the back of the lot, with a dozen parking stalls in the front and keeping two mature trees there.
Additionally, the building would be used for office space and storage.
The last time the issue was before the commission, Jan. 8, Keola Sheehan, representing the developers, said if the building had to be moved to the front of the parking lot, it would have to be a two-story building.
Sheehan said Tuesday that he had little time to prepare for the January meeting. After reviewing the plans, he said the building could be moved to the front of the lot and still be a single story building.
“We still don’t get apples for apples for moving the building from the back to the front,” he said. “It’s sort of apples for apple sauce.”
Architect Marc Ventura said that putting the building in the front will cause two of the stalls to be lost, and maintenance issues will cause the trees to be removed.
Sheehan said that by putting the building in the front of the lot, the best use for it would be for office space and retail, scratching off the storage proposal.