Mist clung to the summit of Makaleha, softening the jagged edges of the range, while white clouds raced across a pale blue sky when the dogs and I went out walking on the first sunny morning in quite some time. As if to express their appreciation, the birds filled the air with loud, melodic song.
Residents from around the island attended a community meeting in Koloa last night to sing out against Grove Farm's plan to evict the tenants of Koloa Camp. You can read my account of the meeting here.
I was glad to see Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and KipuKai Kualii in attendance, but Grove Farm VP Mike Tresler, who ordered the evictions, was a no-show. Apparently he had a flight to Oahu that just couldn't be changed. Mmmhmm.
Still, Kepa Kruse, a really outstanding young man that I wrote about here, said it was actually a good thing that Tresler didn't come. Otherwise, the meeting might have been so confrontational as to foreclose any chance of working out an alternative. He's still hoping to convince the company to move the project across the bypass road.
Instead, Grove Farm sent VP David Hinazumi, a Koloa boy who came home to work for Grove Farm. David started the meeting by saying that he, his wife and their two kids had to live with their parents for a time because they could only recently afford to buy a home. Another young VP was in the same boat, he said, which underscored the need for this "affordable" housing.
This prompted Koloa resident Dan O'Flaherty to note, “Doesn't that tell you something, that even top executives from Grove Farm can't afford to buy a home on this island?”
I found it surprising that plans to use 8,000 cubic yards of fill to raise part of the land above the flood plain on a parcel bordering a stream doesn't trigger any sort of environmental assessment. In fact, the only approval needed is a Class 3 zoning permit issued by the county planning department. And you know what a cozy relationship it has with Grove Farm.
The general consensus seemed to be that the only ones who could afford to buy the homes are mainlanders, which prompted David Denson, himself a mainland haole who married into a Hawaiian family in Wainiha, to say, “When you get all these haoles with water in their houses, they're gonna sue your ass.”
Another interesting tidbit surfaced about Waita reservoir, which reportedly holds 1.3 billion gallons of water. Koloa resident Sonny Cayetano, the county's former Civil Defense administrator, asked if Grove Farm had a contingency plan in the event that the dam broke. “All of Koloa town would be inundated,” he said.
Though many questions and concerns were raised, few answers were given. It seemed from David Hinazumi's comments that Grove Farm hasn't yet explored a lot of the issues raised by residents. Yet it's still planning to push ahead with a mid-March start date.
But the most ludicrous comment of all came from Keith Yap, Grove Farm's director of finance, in his apparent attempt to ease community fears that Koloa Camp tenants would be evicted and their home destroyed, only to have the project stall, as has happened with other proposed developments in the town.
“Grove Farm is committed, even though things are bad [economically] now,” he said. “We feel the timing is right. We could end up where you guys can't buy it, where no one could buy it, but we're committed to building housing.”
So let me get this straight. You're gonna make people homeless so you can build housing that no one may buy.
Sounds like a plan.
Or as KipuKai noted afterward, if Grove Farm is truly committed to building housing that is indeed affordable, why doesn't it form a nonprofit and do it?