‘Stop it now’: Residents call for stricter review of $200M luxury development planned for Poipu

Activists have been trying to stop development in Kiahuna for years. Separately, another home is being built nearby just feet from a heiau.
Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 6:56 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 12, 2023 at 11:48 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai activists have been trying to stop a $200 million luxury condo development in Kiahuna for years. Separately, another home is being built nearby just feet from a heiau.

Some say it symbolizes the larger conflict in the community.

Kauai County Planning Commission and the Department of Land and Natural Resources are investigating the home being built on Makale’a Street next to the Pau a Laka heiau.

It’s shocking because it’s marked as a preserve, they have signs up. But I mean it’s not even 10 feet from this house,” said Elizabeth Okinaka, with the non-profit Save Koloa.

Okinaka is referring to a sign that says, “Archaeological preserve, no entry.”

She says the area includes an ancient agricultural farming system with house sites and burials.

Cultural practitioner Roslyn Cummings says she has genealogical ties to the heiau.

“Seeing this home being built on a site like that, it’s honestly numbing for me because it’s a continuance of something that we’ve been fighting against for such a long time,” said she said.

“And it’s just best to just leave those areas untouched.”

Down the road from the home, San Francisco-based developer Meridian Pacific is building 279 luxury units on 25 acres next to the Kiahuna Golf Course.

The Kauanoe O Koloa project website says phase one is already sold out.

Last year, the developer blasted the site to get through dense rock so it could build infrastructure, such as storm drainage.

Opponents were outraged then and still are.

On Tuesday morning, residents begged the county’s Planning Commission not to let the development proceed without more scrutiny, including biological and environmental studies.

“Stop it now!” said one kupuna to the Kauai County Planning Commission.

“Time is of the essence. You’re destroying things over there.”

“We appreciate and respect everyone’s opinion but please refrain from personal attacks,” said one commissioner.

Laurel Loo, an attorney representing Meridian Pacific proposed a compromise.

“Meridian Pacific acknowledges this is a big development,” said Loo.

“We’re offering to enter into mediation with the parties and we’re also offering to pay for studies on how drainage will affect or could affect heiau which is not on property that we own.”

So far, opponents have declined mediation.

And on Tuesday, the commission sided with residents.

The developer will now have to settle various disputes before the county signs off.

“No amount of money would ever, ever make us walk away. At the end of the day, we came forward, and we told them well before the project started that you guys cannot do this here and it’s not right,” said Okinaka.

The planning commission is sending the case to a hearings officer to decide what issues must be resolved.