Friday, July 30, 1999

Kauai warned against
overbuilding for tourism

By Anthony Sommer


KOLOA, Kauai -- Former Kauai Mayor JoAnn Yukimura last night blasted Alexander & Baldwin's proposal to build a 700-room mixed resort and time-share complex in Kauai's premier resort area at Poipu.

Yukimura, an attorney and environmental activist who since her defeat in 1994 only rarely has taken stands on public issues, warned the Kauai County Council that the A&B project would "flood" Kauai's hotel industry and drive away visitors by overcommercializing the island.

"The discriminating visitor is looking for a place like Kauai," Yukimura said. "Don't destroy the product. You're risking having another Maui here in Poipu."

Her comments drew applause from the majority of more than 150 Poipu-Koloa area residents attending the Council's public hearing on allowing the A&B development planned for an area adjacent to Kukuiula Harbor.

Zoning already exists for 1,000 resort units that have not been built in the Poipu-Koloa area, Yukimura said. If the county wants to allow A&B to build a new resort, it should require the company to buy the rights to 700 of those units, she said.

The A&B project has been in the planning stages since the 1950s. A decade ago, A&B cut a deal with the county under which it would be allowed to build more homes on the property for giving up the resort. Now there is no demand for homes, but occupancy rates in hotel rooms and time-share on Kauai are soaring, and A&B again wants to build a hotel.

In an interview after her appearance, Yukimura said she felt compelled to speak because the debate has been confined to traffic congestion and overcrowded public beaches. "Nobody's looking at the main issue. I don't think anybody understands what's going to happen."

Tourists fled Waikiki for Maui when Oahu became overcommercialized and now they're fleeing Maui for Kauai because Maui has overbuilt, Yukimura said, adding it could happen on Kauai. "This project is threatening the hotel industry islandwide."

"She has a very good point," said Margy Parker, director of the Poipu Beach Resort Association.

The existing hotels have allied with the Koloa Neighborhood Association in a promise to endorse the project if concerns about traffic and the impact on local beaches are met.

A&B officials said last night they are "seriously considering" the demands of the two groups. If the Kukuiula project, which includes substantial residential and commercial construction in addition to the resort, is built, it will be larger than Princeville, currently the biggest planned community on Kauai.

The project has strong support from island contractors. A&B has estimated there would be 845 construction jobs and 668 construction-related jobs over a five- to 10-year period if the project wins county approval.

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