Incident to the current efforts to create a year 2020 Kauai General Plan there
has been a focus on the important policy issue concerning Kauai’s development.
The issue is complex, most of the public commentaries have been polarized and
an overview is hard to find.
The recently issued General Plan Discussion
Draft includes a Vision as to the Kauai that many people would like to see in
The Vision’s broad objectives call for preservation of the rural
lifestyle; and a diversified economy in which the visitor industry provides
30-35 percent of Kauai’s jobs (down from the present 45 percent) with a focus
on developing jobs in agricultural and high technology industries.
inconsistencies found in the plan applying these concepts are troublesome. Let
us consider one of them.
The Plan contemplates that Kauai’s population will
increase from the 1998 base of 56,000 to a 2020 range between 65,000 and 74,000
and that the average daily visitor count will increase from the 1998 base of
17,000 to a 2020 range which the Plan characterizes as “desirable” of
24,000 to 28,000. (It does not state to whom such growth would be
Assuming the relationship between jobs and
population remains constant and using the midpoint of the 2020 projections, the
bizarre and unsupportable conclusion is that a more than 50 percent increase in
visitor count will be serviced by about the same number (14,000) of
Because of anomalies like this, it is essential that we give
attention to the critically important projections made in considering the land
use issues. it is fundamental that we must provide the accommodations required
for our resident population growth and for requisite public facilities.
is in the area of furnishing accommodation units for the visitor industry needs
that controversy is centered. While there seems to be an emerging consensus
that no new zoning should be made for resort facilities, at least until resort
occupancy reaches 80 percent of capacity, this reaches only a part of the
limitations which could be appropriate.
If it is intended to place all
unbuilt tourist accommodations under citizen control as has been suggested, it
will be necessary to establish limits on the 1,630 units for which zoning and
permits have already been granted and the 3,990 units with zoning but no
Such units, if built, and no others were, would provide a 2020
visitor accommodation unit population of 12,650 which is more than the 12,050
indicated as being necessary for a 32,000 daily visitor count with a 69 percent
historic occupancy rate.
If it is wished to control construction of any new
tourist accommodations, reliance could not realistically be placed on current
law or the practices of the Planning Commission and the County Council as
history shows that, while conditions may be imposed, granting of developer
applications is almost automatic.
Recognizing this, it has been proposed
that determinations as to new construction could be placed with the
communities. The problem here is that there is no law authorizing it, and the
plan only contemplates Community Development Plans “subject to County
priorities and the availability of staff and funding.”
In other words
any such program will likely be put in place, if ever, after the horse is out
of the barn. Another concept is to adopt an ordinance requiring voter approval
of all new hotel and timeshare construction.
Any efforts to impose
limitations on new construction will certainly be met with aggrieved and
organized responses from the developers and the construction industry who will
contend that their god given rights to profitably exploit their opportunities
will be harmed.
Those who would seek to take advantage of favorable
changes must be prepared to accept adverse changes.
General Plan Draft contains no specific provision about controlling tourism
accommodations. A number of the CAC members are concerned about this omission
but seem loath to take a stand.
One well considered proposal I have heard
is to adopt an ordinance imposing a moratorium beginning immediately and
continuing for at least five years on all construction of visitor facilities
except for properties now zoned for this purpose and having post-Iniki permits
After the five-year period, the situation should be reviewed and
any appropriate changes made. Perhaps this concept could get general
Sadly, we should recognize that the General Plan process is
imperfect and one which protects the business as usual rights of our major land
owners and fails to implement the basic citizen concerns about the direction of
If the residents of our island miss the opportunity to
assert their views in the General Plan hearings and in the next election the
price which will be paid is to see the essential nature of Kauai forever