LIHU’E — It’s long been a complaint among many residents on the North Shore:
The proliferation of vacation rentals has changed the nature of their
That’s really a “wake-up call” that the island needs more
affordable housing, according to a manager of vacation rental homes.
Kawaihalau, owner of Kaua’i Vacation Rentals, said yesterday that most of her
owners spend at least part of the year living in their units, making them for
the most part unsuitable for the long-term, resident rental market.
she expressed a willingness to sit down and work out “win-win” situations with
those Kauaians who feel the nature of their neighborhoods has changed as a
result of numbers of vacation rentals in residential areas.
She’d be the
one to do it, too, she said, as she manages many of the vacation rentals in the
Ha’ena and Wainiha areas, where many of the complaints have
Visitors want to come and stay in neighborhoods where they feel
welcome, so working out a solution would benefit all involved parties,
Her comments came at the final scheduled Kaua’i Planning
Commission public hearing on the Kaua’i General Plan Final Draft, at the Kaua’i
War Memorial Convention Hall.
Visitors want choices in accommodations, be
it hotels, condominiums, vacation rentals, bed-and-breakfast operations,
camping, or other options, she continued.
“We’re interested in preserving
Kaua’i,” and the fact that these vacation rentals are immaculately maintained
for the next visitor’s enjoyment mean many, high-paying local jobs are created,
for cleaners, gardeners, landscape professionals, and many others, she
Kawaihalau, some of her employees and others who work to maintain
vacation rentals made their case for why vacation rentals are good for the
Vacation rentals contribute to the island in a number of ways, and
generate millions of dollars a year for the state and county in general excise
taxes and transient accommodations taxes, she explained.
Gary Baldwin said he thinks he’s hearing the public saying that some sort of
permitting system is needed for vacation rentals, bed-and-breakfast operations
and other alternative visitor accommodations, and has solicited ideas for such
One suggestion is to allow these alternative accommodations only
in areas enjoying visitor destination area (VDA) designations.
to allow one vacation rental unit for each allowable residential unit on
agricultural parcels, while another proposal is to let the individual planning
districts decide on numbers and locations of vacation rentals.
county planning director, said the complaint from the people has been the
impact on their neighborhoods (not knowing who their neighbors are because they
change every week, etc.) due to the presence of high numbers of vacation
rentals in certain neighborhoods.
Crowell added that it would be better for
suggestions to come in on how to regulate these accommodations, because if the
county regulates, it will come in with a chainsaw as opposed to a
Patti Pacanas, who operates her own home-cleaning business mostly
in South Shore vacation rentals, said the business has allowed her to live
“It totally supports my family, pays my mortgage, puts food on
our table,” she said. Vacation rentals are well maintained, those doing the
maintenance are paid well, and she feels the industry promotes an atmosphere
that encourages return visitors.
“We are keeping Hawai’i Hawai’i,” she
Lehua Ornellas, a reservationist at Kaua’i Vacation Rentals, said
vacation rentals support a variety of other businesses, like pool cleaners,
repair people, house cleaners, yard maintenance firms, gardeners, and
She is even surprised by the quality of homes in the Kaua’i
Vacation Rentals inventory. “It’s like clean from top to bottom before the
Guest comment cards ask for visitors’ visions for Kaua’i,
and they often say small businesses like those maintaining vacation rental
properties should be encouraged, as they paint a picture of what Kaua’i is
really like, Ornellas said.
Water shortage here
Several other speakers
(of 21 in all) talked about a variety of other specific and island-wide
Lelan Nishek, owner of Kaua’i Nursery and Landscaping, said there
is a water shortage in Kilauea, an area once abundant with water. He favors
allowing residential or commercial development on non-prime agricultural
Nishek also feels the island should be more self-sufficient, and
encourage development of hydroelectric systems to the point that some land
owners be required to develop hydroelectric power sources on their lands where
applicable, with tax incentives for them to do so.
Wailua should be
promoted as a major cultural and recreational area, and public areas need more
landscaping. Divided highways should have green in between, he continued.
big land grab
It is “a lot naive” to go for the highest visitor arrival
figure for the year 2020, said Andy Parks, especially since the current
infrastructure doesn’t handle the current population.
“It doesn’t stand the
test of reason to me. It’s short-sighted, naive; I’ve run out of words,” he
said. Current parks are beyond capacity, and planning for high numbers of
visitors won’t help the county get federal or state money for improvements,
“You’re gonna get what you’re gonna get,” he said of visitor
arrival numbers. “We’re not keeping up now,” so to project a visitor arrival
figure 50 percent higher than today’s number will allow us to further not keep
up, he said.
Business people are in such a rush to get the nine proposed
General Plan designations changed through the update process that including
these projects in the General Plan would short-cut public input on the
Each one is its own special project, and deserves individual
public scrutiny, he added. “It’s just a big land grab.”
Liz Hahn-Morin feels fortunate to finally be able to live and work
in the same town, Waimea, and likes the idea of “sustained, organic growth” for
the Westside as proposed by Kikiaola Land Company and Robinson Family
Roland Sagum, a Native Hawaiian, General Plan Update Citizens
Advisory Committee member, land-use consultant and Kikiaola Land Company staff
member, said when he recently returned from a weekend on Moloka’i he became
even more enamored with Kaua’i, because there are essentially no economic
opportunities on Moloka’i, and this island is a veritable land of plenty
compared to Moloka’i.
He presented the commission with 80 signatures and 20
letters from folks in support of the Westside General Plan designations at
Kapalawai and Kikiaola.
Sagum read a letter from Linda F. Collins, manager
of Kikiaola Land Company, wherein she said that when sugar declined on the
Westside, so did the community’s self-sufficiency and vitality.
that vitality now is in the hands of the Kikiaola master-planned community and
her company, whose surveys have showed overwhelming support for that master
plan, she said.
Cheryl Lovell-Obatake, another CAC member, said Kapalawai
should not be allowed to become a resort, because of its historical features.
She prefers the area becoming a cultural destination village open only during
A 250-cabin resort is planned for the area, and the developer,
Destination Villages, is before the state Land Use Commission for public
hearings on an LUC land-use change next week.
“Kapalawai should be
controlled and treated with great respect. Allowing a resort will ruin the
historical ambiance and landform,” she said.
The Hanapepe salt pans should
be preserved and protected, and the state Department of Transportation Airports
Division expansion plan at nearby Burns Field should not be allowed to happen,
Master planning is needed for future cemetery development,
and the island’s death rate should be considered for planning purposes as
“It’s been a very challenging two years,” and a terrific learning
experience, she said of her time with the CAC. She is glad she was able to get
the Office of Hawaiian Affairs involved in the General Plan Update process, as
OHA is an advocate for Native Hawaiian people.
Island has cancer
Brennan said that if the island was a person, it would be diagnosed with cancer
and hardening of the arteries.
It is cancerous because of all the
development approvals, like Coco Palms, being allowed without an environmental
impact statement being required, he said.
“It seems that things are out of
Hardening of the arteries relates to the crowded conditions on
the roads. “Kapa’a needs a triple bypass,” said Brennan, critical of the
state’s decision to widen Kaumuali’i Highway to four lanes while work on any
Kapa’a bypass road seems years away.
“It seems like Kapa’a was forgotten,”
said Brennan, who thinks traffic jams will kill the golden goose known as
Growth of individuals and growth of the island need to be
Michael Belles, an attorney who represents Destination Villages,
the developer of Kapalawai, pleaded with the commission to approve the General
Plan designation changes for Kapalawai and Kikiaola.
As a concerned
citizen, he cautioned the commission to take heart in David Callies’ letter
regarding possible legal challenges to certain proposals in the General Plan.
Any ordinance must pass legal muster before being enacted, he
Implementation is the most important part of the process, and the
plan will be law, quoted and interpreted by those for and against certain
development proposals, Belles said.
“I think it is a good document,” said
Max Graham, an attorney speaking for himself. The issues being generated by
discussion of the General Plan Update are vital.
“I really like the idea of
regional development plans,” but they should not be allowed to dictate specific
zoning, Graham said.
Regarding a proposal to limit structures in the open
zone, Graham said he feels every land owner should be able to build at least
one home on his land without a permit as a matter of law.
Dyer said light industrial zoning is too permissive, allowing industrial as
well as commercial uses.
Regarding issues on agricultural lands, Dyer said
the General Plan Update language is good. He hopes, though, that the Planning
Department will not make too many revisions to the county’s Comprehensive
Zoning Ordinance, as he feels the document in place has worked well in terms of
allowable uses of agricultural lands.
Large-scale agricultural operations
are becoming less and less viable on the island, especially where irrigation
systems are deteriorating, he said.
Location, shipping problems, and other
factors like the opening up of prime agricultural lands with ample water on the
Ewa Plain of O’ahu, are working against island farmers.
The day will come
sooner when Ewa produce is on Kaua’i store shelves than the day when Kaua’i
produce gains a foothold in O’ahu stores, he said.
Further, he is opposed
to an agriculture 2 zoning as proposed in the current Kaua’i General Plan Final
Draft, as requiring farmers to come in for such zoning will place additional
burdens on overburdened farmers.
He is in favor of allowing one house per
lot on smaller farm lots, as that idea is simple and flexible. He is in favor
of letting the individual planning districts decide on the issue of vacation
rentals in residential areas.
David Martin of Hanama’ulu is involved in
various watershed councils, which are community groups coming together to deal
with water resource issues in communities.
At Nawiliwili, the watershed
group is working with kayak companies on voluntary guidelines for times and
numbers of kayaks allowed up the Hule’ia River.
He is sad that the General
Plan vision doesn’t discuss sustainability, or water issues, as
Hawaiian culture most important
Chuck Trembath said that
when the Planning Department and General Plan Update consultant asked the
community what the most important thing on Kaua’i is, they got a myriad of
responses: rural lifestyle, aloha spirit, Hawaiian culture, beauty,
All that will change if the largest visitor arrival figure (around
32,000 visitors a day) is realized by the year 2020.
“The Hawaiian culture
is the most important thing we have,” he said. Without it, Kaua’i becomes just
another place to visit.
But the Hawaiian culture is being “drowned out” by
other cultures, something he likens to having a bucket of brown paint that one
keeps adding more and more white paint to.
After awhile, all you see is the
white paint, with very little brown left, he said. Instead of maximizing the
visitor arrival number, the island should maximize the Hawaiian culture, he
There is no policy in the General Plan to ensure the perpetuation of
the Hawaiian culture, said Trembath, adding that the Water Plan 2020 (the
county Department of Water’s long-range plan), storm water runoff and drainage
plans should all be weaved into the General Plan.
Baldwin took exception to
some of Trembath’s comments, saying that Kaua’i exhibits the best aloha spirit
and enjoys the highest visitor satisfaction of any of the islands, according to
the most recent surveys.
The island has zoning now for 5,000 additional
visitor units, which would bring the total number of around 12,000, Baldwin
stated. Based on an 80 percent occupancy rate, Kaua’i will get its 32,000 daily
visitors by the year 2020.
“Shouldn’t we plan for the infrastructure needed
for those numbers? I think you have to plan for what’s coming down,” Baldwin
No diplomatic relationship
Kane Pa questioned the commission
about county and state relationships with Native Hawaiians, when the federal
government has admitted is has no diplomatic relationship with Native
How can the state and county have programs and relationships
with the Native Hawaiians when the federal government has no diplomatic
relations with Native Hawaiians? he asked.
Gary Lee said now is the perfect
time to review the General Plan, because people tend to be outraged if a lot of
change happens all at once, but adaptable if the change occurs over
He feels strongly that utility lines should be buried underground,
and that a trash-to-energy plant is the most environmentally considerate form
of electrical generation.
Transportation is the second-most detrimental
issue on the island, said Lee, calling for a quiet, fast and efficient mass
transit system that will help the island accommodate the estimated 32,000 daily
visitors expected here by 2020.
“The more roads we build, the more cars
will come.” The island needs more bicycle paths, and shouldn’t allow cigarettes
on the island unless they come with biodegradable filters.
He favors the
U.S government offering programs to Native Hawaiians as it did for the Japanese
and Germans after World War II, to make them whole again, as the overthrow was
in essence a bloodless war that caused Native Hawaiians great
Lee further favors getting young students at Kaua’i Community
College involved in General Plan decision-making matters.
electric cars at the Puhi campus, so if county planners called on students to
come up with economically viable answers to problems like traffic, tourism and
housing, they’d do it, Lee contends.