Guest Viewpoint for Saturday — October 18, 2003

• Kaua‘i’s agriculture needs protection


Kaua‘i’s agriculture needs protection

By HAROLD NELSON

The serious problem of rapid residential development of agricultural land came to my attention when I was preparing a statement for the Kaua‘i County Property Tax Review Commission.

Julie Black Caspillo’s letter which was published on October 11 praises Senator Gary Hooser for the passage of Senate Bill 255, “which in short disallows developers from putting agricultural restrictions in their new developments”. This brief feel good description fails to mention the basic faults of the bill.

In the first place, the bill does not apply to any existing projects, only to new “agricultural subdivisions”. The basic economic law of supply and demand not being subject to the Democrat Party’s legislative whims, this type of high-end property will continue to be developed, but at ever increasing prices which will force genuine local farmers out of the market for prime farm land and benefit only real estate development interests and wealthy purchasers who have no intention of actually farming

Secondly, some restrictions on agricultural properties are required by the very nature of the business. Producers of fruits and vegetables for the Farmer’s Markets who depend on clean water for their crops should not be downstream of a hog farm!

The third and most significant failure of this bill is the Legislature’s usual centralized approach to local issues. Senate Bill 255 limits the power of county planning commissions, which are much better informed than any Honolulu bureaucrat, to make decisions on issues which affect our communities. The Kaua‘i County Planning Commission is now limited by Senate Bill 255 and cannot approve or deny appropriate restrictions on agricultural uses, even in cases when the Commission’s actions would be in the best interests of all members of the Community. Local farmers will face continuing increases in land prices and higher property taxes as a result of additional development of high-end residential subdivisions on land which should be permanently reserved for agriculture by local authorities.

The Republican minority offered sensible amendments to this bill, which would permanently limit development of prime agricultural land, assure environmental protection and allow local control of development. Senator Hooser’s Bill 255 was passed over the Governor’s veto, for Democrat Party political reasons, rather than real concern for local interests.

Harold Nelson is a Kapa‘a resident.

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