Can it be mere coincidence that The Garden Island has a glowing article on Kumu Camp today — just as the project goes before the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands?
Though the Anahola homelands project is marking its third year of operation, it's only recently completed an after-the-fact Environmental Assessment (EA), with DHHL planners recommending the Board today accept a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
Aside from issues concerning burials and archaeological sites, it appears the project has insufficient facilities for what is essentially an unpermitted, oceanfront multifamily vacation rental that can serve dozens of people — in the flood zone.
As a Trip Advisor reviewer noted five days ago:
There is a little red truck with a stove and kitchen supplies where you can cook food and eat meals. Each unit has it's [sic] own shower, however the bathrooms are shared with the entire campground. There is only 1 toilet per side, but generally it was never crowded. There is one unit where they offer Massage and Acupuncture. There are weddings, classes and events that happen here all the time.
To hear the newspaper tell it, Kumu Camp, with its 10 “high end” tentalows, two yurts,15 campsites and “mobile certified kitchen,” is all groovy. But that's because it quotes only representatives of its creator, the Anahola Hawaiian Homestead Association (AHHA).
Not everyone is so keen, including nearby homeowner Pat Hunter-Williams, who disputes both the FONSI designation and references to “Kumu Camp.” She asked the DHHL to use the area's correct name: the Anahola Sand Dune Burial site. In a letter to EA consultants, Pat wrote:
It's a shame the former Chair of DHHL broke the law when not requiring an EA Report as part of the application process and BEFORE any development took place. Because this was an after-the-fact EA Report, there was a GREATER need for the State Historic Preservation Office and Burial Council to have been consulted DURING the preparation of the Report and not relegated to comments at the conclusion. The last sentence in your first paragraph intimates that HAD the EA Report been prepared BEFORE development, the Burial Council would have been consulted during preparation of the Report.
The Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council did ask to be consulted while the EA was being produced, but its request was declined.
Hmmm. We've seen developers take an after-the-fact approach to skirt the Burial Council, but this could be the first time that Native Hawaiians busted that same move.
Pat also questioned why DHHL beneficiaries, such as her husband, were not consulted prior to the project moving forward, and why construction of an above-ground waste water system was begun without permits, especially since one of the developers is Kauai Councilman KipuKai Kualii. The wastewater project has been capped since receiving a cease and desist order from the state Department of Health. I'm not sure when that occurred, but in March, a Trip Advisor reviewer noted:
What was important to us when booking was close to the beach, hot water and running toilets. We had all of the above. We were able to make our own food with their kitchen.
A January guest reported:
They were nice flushing toilets, but the women's was only cleaned once in the two weeks we were there and the men's about the same. The main restroom and showers drain into a septic tank, and men are asked to use the portapotty. Toward the end of our stay, the septic tank was nearly full and the camp managers warned us they were locking the bathroom doors to keep non-campers out, and were concerned that the tank would overflow.
As Pat noted in her letter:
[T]he fact remains that the history of these developers is one of NOT following the rules of the lease - as documented over and over again in correspondence to HCDC from DHHL - and what could be characterized as a pattern of seeking permits / approvals / permission after-the-fact - when forced - which does not engender much confidence that they can be held to their assurances [to cease operations and consult the State Historic Preservation Division and burial council should an iwi disturbance occur.]
Hawaiian Community Development Corporation (HCDC) is an Anahola-based financing conduit created and managed by Robin Danner. HCDC is the fiscal sponsor for AHHA. Robin also serves as vice-president of AHHA, and KipuKai is its president.
The project's website states:
All of the proceeds to Kumu Camp by the general public are designated to our nonprofit operation and hosting of Youth Camps throughout the year and the operation of our Internship Program.
Though TGI played up the youth camps, which sound like a good thing, how much of the revenue actually goes there, as opposed to”our nonprofit operation?” And not even youth camps negate the need to follow the law.
Pat argued in her comments on the EA that there is sufficient reason to require an EIS. As she wrote to planners following the FONSI determination:
The majority of the community was neither informed nor consulted prior to this development commencing and, I might add, prior to the DHHL permits being finalized. I have repeatedly asked, since becoming aware of this development in early 2014, for copies of the Minutes of meetings held which community members attended. To date, I have received nothing.
Other concerns have been raised about plans to offer SUP and kayak rentals, and possible boat tours on the Anahola River. The website offers “surfing lessons & water activities” and catering by “our nonprofit Anahola Café & Saimin Stand.”
As Pat concluded:
[T]he use of the word 'pono' is definitely not appropriately - or accurately - used in ANY discussion of this development.
Others seem to agree.
As a September guest wrote on Trip Advisor:
when we turned the sheets back we found stains and hair on the sheets and pillow cases and upon further investigation mattress cover and mattress were absolutely filthy!! The entire tent a low was filthy as well as the shower and sink with a left over filthy sponge for washing. Outside eating table unwashed and dried decayed food on deck and eating table..... Flies every where !!no lock on tentalows. We took note locals were using tentalows for the night and sneaking out in the morning ? This place is poorly run and cared for..would not recommend it for safety or your health!!!
An August guest was similarly disappointed:
We arrived at this place not expecting it to be anything fantastic and were prepared to rough it a little bit. However, when we arrived we found no gas for the hot water, out of order signs on the toilets and unlockable doors on the tentalows. 'Glamping' this was not. For these reasons we decided to leave and get accommodation elsewhere. It was a little bit disappointing given the nice beach location. If the owners put some money into the place and built some proper cabins they would make a killing.
As was a guest who had July reservations:
When we arrived around 9 pm there was no one there to check us in and no one answered the phone. We were stranded on our first night in Kaua'i. My family and I had to scramble to make other accommodations for our stay last minute, under the gun. Kumu Camp not only didn't answer the phone that night, they never attempted to contact me at all to see if we made it somewhere else or to apologize.
A January guest had mixed reviews:
There were many wonderful aspects of our experience at Kumu Camp: seriously, we were just feet from the beach; the sound of crashing waves 24/7; a great deck to call our own whether it was cocktail hour or coffee time; our own shower; flushing toilets; a comfortable bed; great access to town and restaurants as well as many hikes and beaches; and a quiet, low-key campground.
The reality was that the "kitchen" is an old food truck that did not have lighting (so when you went inside, you needed to bring your headlamp or lantern); and was pretty unclean. There was a lot of old food in there and mice were getting into some hamburger buns that were there (the buns and the mice) our entire stay. Initially, there was only one or two old pots and there were utensils. About four days into our stay, a set of new pots and pans appeared because someone complained. (Not us, as we accepted the status, and planned our meals around our equipment.) The outdoor barbecue grill was deeply crusted by burned food and the only thing we put on there was a pot for water our first morning.
It may be Hawaiian Homes, but that doesn't mean anything goes. Especially since a Kauai Councilman is involved.