New Poipu Beach Resort Development Subject of Intense Debate

Construction of a new, high-end vacation condo development, the 27-acre Kauanoe O Koloa project, located near iconic Poipu Beach and the Kiahuna Golf Course, has reached an impasse on Kauai following a 10-day court-mandated work stoppage and another hearing scheduled for this week.

One thing for certain: the development will increase foot traffic on heavily traveled Poipu Road with its pitiful lack of sidewalks, where a neighbor of ours was killed by a car recently while walking.

Hawaii travel industry spin meets reality check.

While the travel industry focuses on marketing Hawaiian cultural heritage and values and wants visitors to be respectful and learn, that doesn’t always play true in daily island life when the quest to build big runs up against archeological sites. Who wins on this will be decided by the courts.

This issue arose due to mounting legal opposition from the local Native Hawaiian community and others. They allege that the project is destroying archaeological sites, the habitat of protected species, and sacred burial grounds. While the development carries a Hawaiian name, the developer, Meridian Pacific, may not be as sympathetic.

Kauanoe o Koloa in Hawaiian is translated to mean “The Rain of Koloa” and relates to the legend of rain there, which is of cultural significance for Native Hawaiians. Rain is often referred to as a blessing while also being essential in Koloa’s arid, cactus-laden, dry climate.

We stopped by there on Sunday to see what’s up, and it wasn’t at all what we had expected to find.

Instead of the property being devoid of activity since it was Sunday, we found heavy machinery and other work on the development proceeding, as seen in our photo above. We aren’t clear if that was or was not permitted activity. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the state’s requirements on Kauai are that “Construction will be allowed from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays.”

Kaunoe O Koloa’s luxury condo development.

The large-scale project is also set to include two pools, two spas, a large clubhouse, a high-end restaurant, a state-of-the-art fitness center, barbecue areas, and much more. This would be built around the Native Hawaiian cultural sites we mentioned above.

A critical juncture will arrive later this week when the next hearing is slated, and the fate of the development will unfold. It remains likely that the company will be required, at a minimum, to have new and updated permits and an updated drainage plan.

In addition, the temporary court stoppage said there were both drainage issues and the lack of a valid grading permit. Some have mentioned to us that the issues date back to development plans set as far back as fifty years ago.

What was once owned by one company has apparently been sold in parcels to other developers who, in turn, may not be controlling the damage and protecting the environment.

As a result, legal challenges have erupted, seeking to have the issues adjudicated. Two additional groups, Friends of Mahaulepu and Save Koloa, have joined in seeking a preliminary injunction this week. It isn’t clear as to whether or not the current legal battle could determine the fate of the in-construction project or not or slow the momentum.

In the meantime, as this is resolved, it has become emblematic of the sensitive interplay between development aspirations and the imperative to preserve cultural and environmental heritage throughout Hawaii.

Inadequate infrastructure to support additional large-scale developments on Kauai.

Apart from the development’s current legal woes, there are inadequate roads, parks, and restrooms, among other things, here on Kauai. While the island is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, it grapples with challenges stemming from an antiquated, substandard, and not upgraded infrastructure. Kauai faces a myriad of related challenges that impact both Hawaii visitors and residents.

The roads, in particular, suffer chronic congestion, especially during peak hours and during high tourist seasons. These aggravate everyone and continue to cause friction between visitors and residents. Narrow, old and ill-maintained roads with excessive potholes, lack of alternative routes, and inadequate public transportation options add to the problem, making the island difficult to navigate.

Kauai also struggles with inadequate water and wastewater system infrastructure. The island’s aging water distribution system is prone to leaks and breakage, as any resident will point out. Wastewater treatment facilities are limited, outdated, and pose environmental risks and public health concerns. This is noted with dangerously high bacterial levels not uncommon at Kauai beaches. Kauai’s electrical grid, which features a high level of renewable energy, is also vulnerable to outages.

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23 thoughts on “New Poipu Beach Resort Development Subject of Intense Debate”

  1. This company has been struggling to fulfill its obligations to pay subcontractors for the work they’ve completed over several months. It’s my sincere wish that Meridian Pacific takes necessary steps to ensure fairness both within the community and towards the individuals contributing their efforts to their projects before continuing operations.

  2. This development has broken so many rules with seeming immunity from government oversight.
    Classic example of approving more tourist occupied accommodations and then complaining about too many tourists.
    The density is appalling. It sits right next to another ‘Luxury development’ Pili Mai, and is a perfect example of a lack of proper
    planning by our elected, local, officials

  3. Hawaii seems to have a history of putting the cart before the horse when it comes to taking care of infrastructure before building things to attract people.
    Then as the case now in Maui, they blame the tourists for it.

  4. As a long time visitor to Kauai I find the local transportation to be very useful. We no longer rent a car and use the bus and walk to get to our destinations. We are older now as we’ve been going for decades and no longer need to be doing all the tourist things. We focus on supporting local shops and restaurants. We live in a tourist dependent town on the mainland and can see your frustration. We experience it here too. Know that a lot of us love your island and take care to treat it kindly and respectfully. It’s become our home away from home.

  5. We saw the beginning of this project 6 to 8 years ago. Why wasn’t the
    complaints registered then rtather this late date?

  6. Amazing to me that after years of the highest hotel TOT around, no infrastructure has changed since I was a teenager (40+++ years ago). Where do these tax dollars go? This is not just a Kauai problem, this is across the islands ( at least Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the BI). am not a resident, just a loyal visitor that goes to the islands multiple times a year, every year so I can’t vote but I hope the locals make some changes for everyone’s behalf.

    Thank you BOH for all the info so I can feel like part of the Ohana.

  7. We have been coming to Hawaii for decades and love the islands. I fail to see how the locals can resent the tourists on a project like this. This is squarely on the shoulders of the local and state governments. If you allow more developments to be built then you’re opening your arms to more tourists. You. the locals, need to take accountability and put the onus on Your local councils for approving these projects. You vote for these people with no regard on how to stop the overbuilding. Any project should be made to provide so much low cost housing for the locals and spend so many dollars towards the infrastructure. This has nothing to do with tourists, they’re the by products of your local decisions. Best of luck in stopping it. Mahalo

    1. How do you stop auntie or uncle on the county council / zoning board / whatever department is involved from taking a wad of cash under the table to approve these projects? Criminal enforcement of public bribery is a bit of a joke here in Hawaii. Everyone looks the other way, because nobody wants to send auntie or uncle to prison.

  8. As a Kauai resident how the heck does this stuff get approved? I think we all know the answer to that one I guess. Money talks right? Again, it’s people in fancy offices somewhere on the mainland making the bucks on the habitat and location of the Hawaiian islands with little regard of what is being done to our environment. Same old story since Captain Cook. And people coming here wonder why the locals resent some aspects of tourism. This is one.

    1. Seriously, nothing gets approved without local permits, sign-offs and handouts to local politicians. Blaming mainland boogeymen sounds like you weren’t cut in or consulted, hence the spite towards an alleged bad guy on the mainland. Point your ire toward the people you elected locally first, then start to slay the dragons living off island, if there are any.

  9. Developers should bear the cost of upgrading the infrastructure to support the expected increased population and traffic, including roads, water and waste water treatment infrastructure. There should also be appropriate requirements for protecting cultural heritage. Otherwise, Kauai will no longer be Kauai.

  10. Work continuing despite a stoppage order is very familiar to those of us on Oahu who watch Monster Home builders flagrantly continue building no matter what they’re told to do and there seems to be nothing that can stop them from doing so. The lack of enforcement in this area seems almost to smack of lip service and money under the table if I were the conspiracy type…

    Best Regards

  11. There are small commercially available septic systems that could be installed at each condo unit which would eliminate any need for a sewage line.

  12. We live in the adjoining housing development. Work has proceeded loud and strong during the “work stoppage”. All of the upright structures shown in your photo have been erected since the start of the “work stoppage”.

  13. Perhaps it’s time for lawmakers to claw back these land sales and (God forbid) put a moratorium on development until there is sufficient infrastructure in place to handle them. Maybe then, if developers which to proceed, they’ll work collaboratively with counties to help with infrastructure upgrades.

    But as the fiasco of Maui’s disposal of Lahaina waste continues to drag on, that’s not likely, given the appalling lack of competency of most county supervisors.

  14. After reading all of the above about the new development hoping to go in near Poipu Beach my thoughts are “We do not need another resort or Condo complex of that size,”
    As you mentioned the Native Historical sites, disruption of local flowers and animal,
    and the lack of watera d waste water systems and the list goes on.
    It is impossible to walk from almost any of the Poipu beaches down to say the IGA store without getting run over by a vehicle. We do not need more cars, trucks or heavy work vehicles on our over worked roads. Again my response is we don’t need this complex. To those who say we need the jobs to support our families I agree.

  15. So very sorry to hear about the death of your friend on Poipu Road. The intersection of Poipu Road and Kiahuna Plantation drive is beyond dangerous – I heard there is a possibility of a roundabout being put there? Of course this development will add more vehicle traffic to this area.

    It makes no sense for this development to only have access via a 2 mile backtracking drive from Poipu Road/Kiahuna Plantation Drive. There should have been access via Koloa town – but I suppose the Kiahuna golf community did not want a bypass to Poipu going through their neighborhood – certainly not well thought out.

    Yes, and what a joke about having a restaurant there!!

  16. There are so many things wrong about this development but the one humorous thing is “a high end restaurant “ when there are places like The Plantation Gardens that is still closed. Are they impor ting workers?

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