Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Musings: Losing Lifelong Homes

Another piece of Kauai's history is on the chopping block. Grove Farm has issued eviction notices to 13 families living in Koloa Camp — the oldest remaining plantation camp on the southside.

Ironically, Grove Farm wants to demolish the low-rent homes so it can build, mmm, affordable housing. Except the new units would be the China-made modular kine.

The residents, including multi-generational families and seniors who have lived their entire lives in the homes, must be out by March 8. They got notice just two weeks before Thanksgiving, casting a pall over the holiday season.

“The biggest thing that really breaks my heart is a local company like Grove Farm would do that to senior citizens. It's almost shameful,” says Kepa Kruse, a Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning musician who grew up in the camp. His father, John Kruse, who sailed on Hokulea and formerly chaired the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council, still lives there.

“A lot of these people have nowhere to go, so I think they're just gonna stay here,” Kepa says. “It's hard to relocate your lifestyle. This is real local style. People raise chickens and have gardens. We're gonna lose the old style Kauai charm.”

The 24 acres scheduled for redevelopment lie behind Koloa Post Office. The land borders the parcel where monkeypod trees were cut down three years ago, despite intense community opposition, to make way for the Shops at Koloa. The mall stalled when major tenants sued to break lease, leaving the developer, Eric A. Knudsen Trust and David Nelson of Detroit, unable to get financing.

“The developer had big dreams and cut down all the trees and the land is just sitting there, infested with rats,” Kepa says. “We fear the same thing will happen here.”

He says 30 families living in another camp near Waikomo Stream and Hapa Road were previously evicted and their homes destroyed to make way for an affordable housing project that still hasn't broken ground.

“Developers see these old plantation homes and think, that would be a nice development,” Kepa says. “But for local people, that's their childhood, the buildings they grew up in. Even though it's old, it still has value. It's meaningful.”

Residents are wondering why Grove Farm is pushing for the evictions when it apparently hasn't yet submitted plans its plans for the project to the county. Kepa says the land is in a flood zone and borders streams inhabited by the endangered Koloa duck, factors that could delay or prevent development. The community is also concerned about how the proposed 50-unit project would affect traffic on narrow Wailana Street.

“These are valid questions we're bringing up and it's like they're trying to keep it hush-hush,” he says. Residents have been trying to get answers from Grove Farm, to no avail. So they went to the Koloa Community Association for help, and a meeting is now scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Koloa Neighborhood Center to discuss the issue. Grove Farm Vice President Mike Tresler has been invited, although Kepa is uncertain whether Tresler will show. “He doesn't want to meet with us.”

Koloa Early School also has received an eviction notice, and the Koloa Canoe Club would be similarly displaced.

“We as a community feel it's a very reasonable thing for Grove Farm to address these concerns and also delay the evictions until these concerns are addressed,” Kepa says.

In the meantime, residents have been meeting each Sunday afternoon to discuss strategy.

“It's really amazing to see the community coming together to fight this,” Kepa says. “I know with some of the developers their intentions are good, but I wish they would open their heart to the community before they press on the gas pedal. Kauai is pretty special, and if we lose the things that make it that way, you might as well move to Oahu.”

The residents have organized under the name Save Koloa Camp, and you can check out their website here. I hope to attend the Thursday meeting and hear what the developer and some of the other residents have to say.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering whether all those folks who were upset about the monkeypods being cut will be similarly motivated to support the families who are on the verge of losing their lifelong homes.


Anonymous said...

Evil, evil, evil. Grove Farm is greedy. They really don't care about people.

Anonymous said...

Grove Farm trying to pretty up Koloa town for tourists at expense of local families.

Anonymous said...

who owns the land? Is this part of eminent domain? Is this leasehold land?
I think a key piece of this story is glaringly absent.

Anonymous said...

"who owns the land"?
Grove Farm

Anonymous said...

The land is zoned both Open and R-6 (higher density per acre). The Open land is zoned open due to the FLOOD ZONE.

What is interesting here is, what would be the trigger for the EA or EIS does not apply because they are not subdividing the lot. They are Condominium Property Regime - CPRing it - which does not require infrastructure improvements to surrounding areas. Higher density, more traffic, larger sewers - which will be at the cost of the COUNTY instead of the developer based on this land use system of CPR. It could also be called Unregulated Growth.

Anonymous said...

Changing the zoning is an option,

Just fill in the wetland area - its not protected right.

check out the flood area.


Anonymous said...

Thanks once again for reporting news absent from our bogus daily paper. TGI has no meat or substance to their content and rarely if ever reports anything that goes against business interests. Needless to say, surprised to see the article about the lawsuit filed against Pioneer today in tgi...kinda hard to ignore that one even if they wanted to.

Mahalo for the heads up on the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Aren't there federal endangered species regulations that would come into play if they develope Koloa duck habitat? Wouldn't that trigger an EA or EIS?

Anonymous said...

HRS 343

No, no triggers.


So, not state, federal or county land, not shoreline, not conservation district, not designated as historic - maybe 343 (5)-9 depending on the number of SFR so, GF knowing the law, it would be for less than fifty.

Has the CPR already been approved by the county, that detail was not in your reporting?
Besides, if there were - what do you think would happen?

Anonymous said...

This is a legitimate use of the land, the problem here is you cannot regulate the CPRs and subdivision public hearings might as well be private developer affairs. I notice they are not webcast.

Anonymous said...

I think this needs mainland TV media exposure.....
during the Holiday Season this should stir things up a bunch...

"Large corporation (the 1 percent)demonstrating what they really care about....cash"

This move by Grove Fraud makes them the Christmas Grinch of the year!

Example of "trickle down economics?"

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Itʻs possible that Grove Farmʻs ʻleaseʻ has expired.
We know they never owned the land but the bogus lease they acquired after the illegal overthrow expired a long long time ago.
Yet they just continue on and donʻt think anyone will dare contradict their squatting.

Grove Farm Corporation is squatting. On National Lands.

Anonymous said...

Really! Who's running Grove Farm? Ebenezer Scrooge?

Anonymous said...

Really! Who's running Grove Farm? Ebenezer Scrooge?

December 14, 2011 7:37 PM

Mike Tressler?

Anonymous said...

Read Tresslers take in todays tgi. He says evictions are between landlord and tenant, a private matter yet according to tenants GF isn't talking to them. Looks like he's playing hardball now that tenants have taken the issue public. What has happened to the Koloa/Poipu area over the last 10 years is a disgrace and I don't blame life-long residents whose families have been living there for generations for resisting yet another attack on local lifestyle.

Plantations raped the land which they acquired through questionable means, making their wealth off the backs of laborers. Now they are "discarding" these former workers as obstacles to their land development mission. If GF had their way the entire Poipu coastline from Mahaulepu to Kukuiula would be resort development. Plantation camps no longer fit their image. Show some compassion and respect for the retired workers w/ limited income who made you wealthy in the first place. Let them live out thir lives in the only home they've ever known with their vegetable gardens and chickens. When their gone, build your so called green buildings.

Anonymous said...

auwe, and who would want a toxic prefabricated crappy house for an over inflated 270,000 - 475,000. if the goal is to supply housing, they have achieved that better by leaving the houses and families as they are.Oh yeah, those families can go into huge debt to live in a junk version of their house. As an island, it's pretty heartless for one of the largest landowners to evict long term residents to put up cheap unaffordable "affordable housing."
It's not like they don't have ample land to develop anywhere so i'll assume it's the same as has happened on the North Shore... get rid of as many local people as possible. And they apparantly don't care if it's bad PR. Bad mistake.

Anonymous said...

"if the goal is to supply housing"

The GOAL is NOT to supply affordable housing. The Goal is to make a profit on the 70% full priced housing.

The law requires them to provide 30% 'affordable'.

...read the Housing Strategic Plan on kauai.gov

Rhiannon said...