Permit problem halts building of Kauai bike path
The $50 million lane runs along the shoreline, sparking preservation concerns
KAPAA, Kauai » A legal squabble has put the brakes on the $50 million federal-county Kauai bike path, stopping concrete work for at least four weeks.
At issue is whether the county Planning Commission followed its own rules when issuing a Special Management Area permit to complete a segment of the 20-mile bike path, stretching along the east side of Kauai from Lihue to Anahola.
More than $18 million in federal transportation dollars and matching county funds have already been spent on the project, which started in 2002. More than 2.5 miles, at Lydgate Park in Wailua, have been completed.
While some County Council members say the current SMA permit is illegal, the county attorney has given differing opinions on whether the permit should have been issued in the first place.
After Deputy County Attorney James Tagupa said in January that the permit process was followed, another deputy, James Itamura, told Council members last week that the process was flawed.
At yesterday's Council meeting, the County Attorney's Office requested another week to prepare an opinion.
Until the opinion is issued, construction work on the project will be halted, the Council learned yesterday. A letter from the Department of Public Works, and read into the record, said construction stopped Feb. 21 and will not resume, except for highway shoulder work, until officials with County Attorney's Office "confirm the legality of the construction."
The delay will likely cost the county thousands of dollars, although Doug Haigh, the county's building division chief, could not say how much yesterday without a bill submitted by the contractor.
TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Construction of the Kauai bike path, a $50 million project, was halted last week when the County Council found possible problems with a building permit. CLICK FOR LARGE
Even if the project gets the green light, Haigh said, concrete work can't continue because there is a two-week ordering delay to get the concrete.
Itamura told members of the Council's Public Works Committee last week that because construction did not begin within a year of the state shoreline certification, the county should have been forced to get a new certification of whether the bike path is properly set back from the shoreline.
The problem was that, despite the county submitting the SMA permit within three months, the Planning Commission took almost three years to issue the permit, Itamura said, necessitating a new certification before construction.
While some Council members believe the construction should not have to suffer because of the Planning Commission's lag, others said a re-examination should take place to protect the shoreline.
The permit was approved with variances that allow the county to build within the setback at various place.
"No violation is acceptable," said Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho yesterday. "We are an island that's in a state of eroding natural resources."
Haigh said he's just "caught in the crossfire," saying "we do everything they tell us to."
The SMA issue follows a building permit problem.
For six months, six covered benches, known as rest areas, have been sitting in various stages of completion, and no work is scheduled on them. Because the contractor did not specify the benches would have roofs or their locations in the original SMA permit, the county has been forced to get an SMA amendment, which should be on the Planning Commission agenda within the next two months.
Haigh said the county will not be penalized for the mistake.
All these problems have come during the second phase of the project, which stretches 4.3 miles from Kapaa to Kuna Bay or "Donkey Beach." It was scheduled to be completed in January.