Kaua’i County Council hopeful John Barretto attributes Kaua’i’s economic and social ills to one culprit – too much development.
Barretto said he doesn’t have all the answers to the problems of traffic congestion, trash management, crime, the high cost of living, high utility rates and loss of public access to the mountains and beaches.
But, Barretto said he has formulated solutions for some problems, and will work on the others if hie is elected to the seven-member council in the Nov. 5 general election.
To better control development, Barretto, if elected, said he would ask the council to support a moratorium on the upzoning of agricultural land for urban use or resort uses.
While supporting the visitor industry, the island’s biggest job generator, Barretto said, “we should not have any more development of hotels until the hotels that exist have sustained occupancy rates of 80 to 90 percent.”
In the first six months of this year, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported occupancy rates at 75 percent.
To control urban sprawl, Barretto said the full council should have the authority to review and vote on variances granted by the Kaua’i County Planning Commission to developers.
“When I voted on zoning amendments (when he sat on the council in the 1980s), I voted on certain conditions; I didn’t approve the zoning with the variance the developer got from the planing commission,” Barretto said.
The public can have another chance to voice concerns with the variance request before the council, Barretto said.
Barretto said he also would focus his attention on these issues:
– Loss of public access.
“The closing of the plantations and the selling of former canefields are creating a new set of problems for Kaua’i people,” Barretto said. “Rich people are buying large tracts of land and blocking access to traditional areas.”
The council is working on legislation that would protect access through new subdivisions.
But, Barretto said a provision in the bill contains a loophole that would exempt subdivisions with six lots or less, and “that has got to be changed,” Barretto said.
Barretto said the state of Hawai’i, in certain cases, has contributed to the loss of access by fencing off public lands, citing unpermitted dumping and unpermitted hunting.
But, hunters should be allowed to continue hunting on private land as long as they carried liability insurance, although this proposition would very likely need consent of private landowners, Barretto said.
“We are in gridlock, bumper-to-bumper traffic from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the east side (in Kapa’a) and not much better on the west side,” Barretto said.
The state Department of Transportation is considering a permanent bypass road and feeder roads between that road and the backside of the town to help ease traffic on Kuhio Highway in Kapa’a.
It will take up to 15 years before work on the multi-million dollar project begins, Barretto speculated.
An interim solution that could take two to three years to implement would be the creation of four lanes on the highway through Kapa’a, Barretto said.
“It would be comparable to what was done on Rice Street (which was converted into a four-lane road to facilitate traffic flow),” Barretto said.
Barretto said businesses may complain about the loss of street parking with the road widening, but if people want a solution to daily traffic jams in East Kaua’i, “we have to bite the bullet and do the best we can.”
The loss of on-street parking can be resolved by having the county condemn properties in Kapa’a.
Government should consider buying a former plantation road by the Halfway Bridge in Kipu and convert it into a bypass road to deal with traffic congestion into Lihu’e from West Kaua’i.
The road, which runs behind Puhi and leads to Nawiliwili Harbor, could be used in emergencies, Barretto said.
Barretto, 68, said he won’t let recent illnesses stop him from seeking public office. Barretto said he had heart problems in the past and suffered a heart attack June 1, and “four days later I was mowing my grass in Kapa’a,” where he owns a home.
Barretto also went through surgery in 1998 to remove cancerous growth in a lung.
“I am running as a candidate in this late day in my life because I see a need for my expertise on the county council,” he said. “I am running for our lives.”
Barretto, a long-time political ally of veteran councilman Kaipo Asing, ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the mid-1980s and the council in recent years.
A businessman, Barretto has run nine gas stations on O’ahu and an auto salvage business and a charter fishing business on Kaua’i.
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org