Kauaʻi Council poised to give $7 million in exchange for 10 words.

The Kauaʻi County Council agenda set for Wednesday 09/21/22 includes Resolution 2022-28 which proposes to transfer to The Grove Farm Company (Grove Farm) approximately $7 million in taxpayer-funded property improvements, newly constructed buildings, related infrastructure, and nearly 6 acres of land – that same land that Grove Farm had previously given to the County.

You can’t make this stuff up. Read the Resolution (https://bit.ly/3Bq2xv8) but also read between the lines.

It seems that the agreement between Grove Farm and the County included a provision that said that if there was not sufficient progress within two years, then the property would revert back to Grove Farm. It further appears that Grove Farm isn’t willing to cut the County any slack on this deadline due to a global pandemic.

Consequently, they have taken us to court seeking a return of the land (which now includes $7 million in improvements).

If Resolution 2022-28 passes, Grove Farm which both literally and figuratively already owns most of Lihue, will receive from the County a brand new 16,000-square-foot residential complex sitting on 5.8 acres of land. This includes enough living space for 16 people to reside there full-time. There’s a separate wing for other uses, there are classrooms that could also be used as offices, and there is a certified kitchen.

According to multiple media reports the construction of the facilities cost the County at least $7 million and was paid for via State and County taxpayer funds, plus private donations.

The County will be giving all of this to Grove Farm in return for their promise to utilize the property “solely for use for adult and adolescent health care purposes”.

That’s it. We give you $7 million and the land, and you promise to fulfill those 10 words (apparently in any shape or fashion that you choose).

Does this mean Grove Farm can then turn around and receive a $10 million dollar tax benefit by donating the entire property to a religious institution that promises to run a faith-based drug treatment program?

Can they sell or lease the property to a profit-focused luxury rehab company, that focuses on serving the rich and famous such as CAPO by the Sea, Passages Malibu, and so many others?

Are future occupants of the property even required to include drug addiction treatment in the services they offer?

Nothing in the Resolution nor in the proposed deed restrictions requires Grove Farm to only use the property for an adolescent treatment and health center for local kids, as was envisioned by the community and sold to donors both public and private. There is no requirement to repay the County should Grove Farm sell or lease the property for a profit.

No doubt, everyone involved has good intentions. The County and Grove Farm both might want to fulfill the communities dream and its needs, but good intentions are not enough.

And if the agreement is not spelled out clearly in writing, it doesn’t exist.

Kauaʻi has a serious drug problem and there is no on-island residential treatment facility available for our young people who want and need help.

I was newly elected and serving on the Kauaʻi County Council in 2013, and voted in support of various measures that moved this project along. I remember having doubts about its financial viability. I voted for it because I knew in my heart how badly our community needs it and I knew that no one else was going to step up and do this, so the County must.

As a State Senator, I remember taking calls from parents desperately seeking a place for their son or daughter who was literally begging to check in somewhere to detox, clean up, and get well. But for these parents, there were no options for residential treatment on Kauaʻi, and statewide there were only waiting lists.

My hope today is that the Council will put Resolution 2022-28 and the proposed transfer on hold.

At the very minimum, the language in the document must be rethought and reworked to protect the taxpayer and ensure the vision.

We’ve come too far on this to just throw it all away.

Gary Hooser

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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5 Responses to Kauaʻi Council poised to give $7 million in exchange for 10 words.

  1. JRay says:

    The County has been “out-lawyered” yet again. Those deals should always be at least “approved as to form” by corp counsel. When are you going to get serious and retain experienced counsel and give them real oversight?

    Answer: when you get the big dark money out of Hawai’i elections and reform a system currently dominated by special interests that don’t want competent legal review of County transactions — that’s when.

    • garyhooser says:

      Yep. It’s my understanding that numerous attorneys move from serving in County to serving the landowners and developers they once helped regulate. The revolving door continues to diminish​ the public trust.

      • JRay says:

        Not unlike teachers, if gov’t attorneys were paid competitive wages, the door would not revolve as fast and we might get some benefit from training them. A little more oversight on conflict of interest wouldn’t hurt either.

        I also need to avoid the temptation to over-generalize — there are a small(ish) number of gov’t attorneys who, driven by a desire to serve, are both long-term and VERY competent — just ask plaintiffs’ bar 😉

  2. ConcernedHawaiian says:

    Let’s not forget that it was the County that chose to change the use from a treatment center to an expansion of the Prosecutor’s office. Check out https://www.civilbeat.org/2020/06/kauai-has-a-new-plan-for-its-vacant-residential-drug-treatment-facility/.

  3. Jon Olsen says:

    Sounds very prudent on your part,at the very least.

    “And if the agreement is not spelled out clearly in writing, it doesn’t exist. ”

    This is clearly brought home by the assurance of George HW Bush to the late Mikhail Gorbachev that “NATO will not one inch toward the east.” And now see what it led to! Jon

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