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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Testimony favors resort proposal for Robinson land

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — The proposed 250-unit low-density resort at Kapalawai sailed easily through its final public hearing yesterday.

The Kaua'i Planning Commission is considering a shoreline management permit for the project, which has undergone six public hearings before state and county land-use bodies during the past three years.

The commission could make a decision as early as its next meeting in two weeks. If the project is approved, construction could start by the end of the year and the resort could be open by late 2004, said Kapalawai attorney Michael Belles.

Developer Lewis Geyser and the landowners, Robinson Family Partners, are proposing 250 one-unit cottages on 166 acres of coastal land. The site was formerly the Robinson family headquarters.

The 105-year-old family mansion will be renovated and used as a museum, offices and meeting rooms. An ancient fishpond on the site will be repaired under the jurisdiction of veteran Kaua'i archaeologist Pila Kikuchi.

Most of the testimony during yesterday's three-hour hearing was favorable. But one opponent of the project, Bruce Pleas, suggested that the historical value of the property is too great to convert it to resort use. He suggested that the Robinsons consider some of their mauka lands for such use.

"I would think they would look at this as a historical cultural center," Pleas said.

Much of the support for the project is linked to the death of Kekaha Sugar Co. and the need for jobs for residents in West Kaua'i.

The Robinson family sugar company, Gay and Robinson, has worked hard to find new ways to keep its plantation alive, such as running plantation tours, planting alternative crops, bidding for a contract to burn the county's solid waste, and leasing thousands of acres of additional sugar land when Kekaha Sugar Co. went out of business.

"We've added 50 employees since Sept. 11," said company president Alan Kennett.

The tourism project at Kapalawai is simply another of the family's efforts to remain in business, he said.