Monday, May 08, 2006


How Much Timeshare Growth Is Too Much?

After Hurricane Iniki demolished the Kaua'i economy in 1992, it took a decade before the island was mostly recovered. But now the development climate is so hot that many residents are calling for a halt.

There is increasing talk of moratoriums on new growth. The County Council is considering a bill to block all new timeshare development permits in the Koloa-Po'ipu area pending a complete traffic study. And yesterday, Mayor Bryan Baptiste said he wants progress on two proposed Waipouli timeshare resorts stopped "until they make us an offer we can't refuse."

Much of the island's infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems, is near or at capacity. For example, in several communities, the issuance of new water meters has been blocked because of lack of capacity in either source or storage of drinking water.

But congested streets are the biggest issue for many residents.

"It all boils down to traffic. Traffic congestion, traffic safety, pedestrian safety. That's basically the long and the short of it," said Koloa resident Ted Blake, who is helping organize discussions with county officials and timeshare developers in his part of the island to find solutions to the problem.

The mayor, as well as people who have had his job before and those who want it, are generally in agreement.

County Councilwoman and former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura is sponsoring a bill to place a moratorium on new permits in the area until the existing development plan for the area — which requires a complete traffic study — is enforced.

"We're doing this in response to the community's concerns. The community is advocating good planning, and they're up in arms because it's not happening," Yukimura said.

Mayoral candidate and former Councilman Jesse Fukushima said the county clearly has a excessive backlog of capital-improvements needs, and there's a sense that developers are adding to the congestion without paying enough in impact fees to make up for the increased demand they create.

"We all know that the impact fees are very much lacking," Fukushima said.

Baptiste yesterday announced that he has informed the Kaua'i Planning Commission of his opposition to two new timeshare resorts in the Coconut Plantation at Waipouli, because he feels their $12 million offer for water, sewer and traffic improvements is far short of what is appropriate.

The Coconut Beach Development, on 21 acres of beachfront, is proposed as a 343-unit timeshare project with 6 hotel rooms. The Coconut Plantation Village on 12 acres is designed as a 192-unit apartment hotel with 6 hotel rooms.

Baptiste said residents are frustrated by continued development, particularly in the Wailua-Kapa'a area, where traffic congestion is the worst on the island.

"I'm caught in a dilemma of catchup. Hundred of millions of dollars of catchup," he said. Besides water, sewer and roads, there's a need for housing, something county officials cannot legally ask the developers to contribute, he said.

"We cannot ask these developers for affordable housing, yet they will have to import employees to the island, which would put a burden on our housing inventory," the mayor said.

Mitch Heller, manager of the Coconut Beach Resort, said his timeshare project would provide roughly $8 million toward county needs.

"We are disappointed that the mayor has not recognized the many benefits our project will bring to the community in terms of traffic improvements, water storage and sewer upgrades," he said. "Our commitment to improve Kaua'i's infrastructure goes well beyond our statutory requirements and is unprecedented in scope."

He said the timeshare project would allow the completion of some traffic improvements.

"The traffic problem exists today and will exist tomorrow even if nothing else is built in Waipouli or as far north as Princeville," Heller said. "Clearly, if our project is not approved, it is unlikely that the county will be able to fund the road and other improvements that the community said it so badly needs."

For Baptiste, the Waipouli developers' offer is not enough to make a significant difference to residents.

"Projects must provide benefit to the 64,000 people who live here," the mayor said.

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