Kauai Council to vote for limit to store size
Lawmakers will stop Wal-Mart's expansion into a "supercenter"
LIHUE » The Kauai County Council is poised to pass a bill today banning future big-box stores on the Garden Isle, likely killing a planned expansion of the Lihue Wal-Mart into a so-called "supercenter."
The five-member Council Planning Committee unanimously passed the bill last week. The committee members said they had received hundreds of pleas, in letters, e-mails and public testimony, both for and against the bill in the past few months.
The committee members and two other councilmembers who joined in the meeting in an ex-officio capacity -- Tim Bynum and Council Chairman Kaipo Asing -- said the bill will preserve the rural character of Kauai and keep Lihue from becoming the only place to shop for groceries.
Bill 2203, which will be voted on at today's bimonthly Council meeting, limits the size of new retail stores to 75,000 square feet.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who sponsored the measure, said the bill will have the same long-reaching, positive effect as the Kauai County law* passed decades ago to limit the size of resorts to four stories, or no taller than a coconut tree.
"I don't think it's stopped (people) from coming to Kauai," she said. In fact, she said, the coconut tree rule "has been a tremendous asset to our visitor industry."
Councilman Mel Rapozo was among a number of councilmembers who said their mind changed as information from the public came in.
Rapozo apologized to his mother, who wants a Wal-Mart supercenter, for supporting the bill, but said the bill was for his children and their future children.
Wal-Mart wants to create a supercenter, double the size of a regular store, to accommodate a full-service grocery.
Wal-Mart, its employees and its supporters have been staunchly against the bill, saying it will destroy a plan to add another 68,000 square feet to their Lihue store. The plan would be to add groceries and other products, making it the state's first supercenter.
A Wal-Mart spokesman did not return a call seeking comment, but dozens who testified at last month's public hearing said the expansion would be a good thing, giving Kauai residents more choices to shop and helping those on tight budgets save money.
"Wal-Mart has been a good business and a good neighbor," Yukimura said, "but we need to assert our values as a community."
Bynum joined other councilmembers expressing their worry that the supercenter would force other shops in outlying areas to close, leaving towns without grocery stores and forced to go to Lihue, causing more traffic.
"What really tipped it for me is this idea of centralization," Bynum added. Plus, "I can't imagine a 75,000-square-foot market."
Friday, May 25, 2007
» The Kauai County law limiting the size of buildings on the island to four stories was passed through a voter initiative in the 1970s. A Page A5 article yesterday incorrectly said the law came from the County Council.