Kualapu`u Responds to Coffees’ Plans

Community Contributed

By Rick Tamanaha

It can be said that Kualapu`u is a relatively passive community rarely in the eye of the public, generally pro-business because of its roots with the Del Monte pineapple plantation – a community/business partnership that was second to none.

However, the relationship between Kualapu`u and Coffees of Hawaii was misrepresented in the Dispatch article a few weeks ago.

In the article, the phrase “what could have been” with a nuance of fault placed on the community for putting a stop to Coffees of Hawaii’s phase two expansion project and subsequently cuts to service and jobs, was misleading – more emphasis and focus should have been placed on the fact that concerned residents had virtually no real information on what Coffees planned to do with the liquor license.

The article quotes Coffees’ manager Maria Holmes as saying owners “felt the expansion wasn’t wanted (by the community), so they decided to scale back.” This is following with, “concerned residents, hearing of the plan for liquor but with no further knowledge of Coffees’ plans, circulated a petition against the liquor license.”

Really, the community could not form an opinion of the plans without knowledge of the plans. The owners/management took the time to come up with elaborate plans but preferred to assume what the community thought instead of taking the time to have dialog and provide it with any information.

Because the required public hearing, held by the Liquor Commission, was scheduled on Maui, a petition was circulated to stop the license from being granted. The intent of the petition signed by community members and forwarded to the liquor commission was to postpone the granting of the liquor license until a public hearing could be held on Molokai, or until information could be obtained from Coffees. During the ensuing weeks prior to the hearing on Maui, a parent tried on several occasions to contact Holmes and acquire information – phone calls were not returned.

The petition succeeded and the public hearing was rescheduled by the commission to be held on Molokai sometime in early December. With a large segment of Kualapu`u’s population over 75 and under 18 years of age, a school located within 100 feet of a Kalae Highway intersection, and no information to work with – residents were concerned and indeed, acted responsibly by circulating the petition.

In early September, Holmes called a meeting to discuss the project with Aka`ula School and parents. It was rescheduled on short notice and only a few parents were able to attend the meeting. If everyone was on the same page, adjustments could have been made if necessary – such as a better location for the crosswalk used by the kids, rumble strips on Kalae Highway (hardly anyone drives the speed limit through that intersection) and the safest location for entrances and exits to the bar, etc.

Holmes also said she was advised not to hold a separate, informational meeting for the public. From the Dispatch article, “the Liquor Commission had advised management not to hold a public informational meeting while there application was in progress, especially after the petition was received.” This is false. Per phone, Liquor Commission Investigator Michael Kawagishi said no such advice came from his office. He did advise them of ruling 281-59(b) – the applicant shall not use the protest list to attempt to influence in any way any protestor to withdraw the protest or objection. In other words, Coffees’ management was free to hold an informational meeting with the community at any time with the community at any time with no deadline.

There is no doubt that the community in Kualapu`u wants to see Coffees of Hawaii succeed. And if the owners and management had taken the time to clearly and transparently propose their plans to the community just like they did in the Dispatch, the project may have been met with minimal opposition by the community members.

Perhaps the Dispatch article last week should have been said “What could have been if ownership and management makes an effort to work with the community.”

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