Developer impact fees ‘not enough’

WAILUA — Jesse Fukushima, a mayoral candidate and former Kaua’i County Council member, said yesterday that increasing impact fees for developers seeking permits for land already zoned for use is the best way to help solve Kaua’i’s staggering infrastructure problems.

Fukushima said the county has been confronted by critical shortages in the way of traffic resolutions and sufficient water and waste water services across the island over the last three years, and that it may be time “to revisit” the fee structure.

Developers will “have to pay for the infrastructure. We can’t keep burdening our property taxes,” Fukushima said during the 36th yearly meeting of the League of Women Voters of Kauai County held at the Aloha Beach Resort yesterday.

The focus of the meeting dealt with the issue of “moving from permitting to planning,” said organizers of the gathering.

More than 50 residents attended the meeting, which featured as the keynote speaker, Tom Dinell, a professor emeritus and founder of the University of Hawai’i Department of Urban Planning and Regional Planning.

Puanani Rogers, an audience member and a staunch supporter of the Hawaiian independence movement who has complained about development occurring over Hawaiian historical sites, said county leaders should “just say no” to the developers.

Fukushima, who was part of a five-member panel to discuss planning, has said development is part of the evolution of the island.

But he noted that if developers want to build projects with multifamily units, single-family units and resort features, they will have to pay higher impact fees.

Fukushima said it was his impression developers currently pay an impact fee of about $1,000 for every condominium unit they build.

With development intensifying these days, that amount isn’t enough, he said. “They will have to pay for the infrastructure,” he said. “It is time to look at innovative ways.”

To some extent, developers are proposing to do that. For the first time, two developers, Coconut Plantation Holdings and the Coconut Beach Development, are collectively proposing to give the state and county governments $12.4 million for infrastructure improvements in the Waipouli and Wailua area.

County Planning Director Ian Costa noted, however, the current fees are “not enough” to take care of infrastructure needs of the island today.

But he emphasized that whatever impact fees are collected should be “channeled to specific infrastructure.”

Costa also said there is no new zoning proposed, and noted the lands for which permits are being sought by developers today or in recent years were zoned in the past, long before he took his current position.

While “old lawmakers” should be credited for having made planning decisions in their time, they might not have foreseen the huge impact the rezoning of one-time agricultural lands for resort use, for instance, spanning 30 years, might have on Kaua’i today.

The county approved the comprehensive zoning ordinance in 1972, which sets up the zoning codes and the zoning districts, including those allowing for resorts.

Costa said the resort development has been primarily confined to three areas: the Princeville resort on the North Shore; Kapa’a in East Kauai; and Po’ipu.

That type of planning has been good for the island in that “open vistas” exist between the resort-designated areas, he said. Joining Costa and Fukushima on the panel were councilman Jay Furfaro, Juan Wilson, an architect, and Nadine Nakamura, principal of NKN Project Planning and an advocate of affordable housing.

On the subject of development, Kaua’i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who attended the meeting, said people have raised the right questions about development, but they haven’t been heard “by decision-makers.”

As a result, “they don’t get involved in the planning process,” she said.

But some have, Furfaro said

The council heard property owners who wanted property tax relief in the face of soaring assessment brought on by property sales in recent years, he said.

The council responded by fashioning legislation that set a 2 percent cap on property tax bills for residents who own their homes and live in them and a 6 percent cap on bills for land-lords, Furfaro said.

In his presentation, Dinell said Kauai’s natural beauty and rural lifestyle may be at the root of the island’s long-standing, nagging traffic problems and affordable housing problems.

The tragedy that ensued after the Ka Loko Reservoir burst its dam in Kilauea last month where seven people were killed is a case in point of planning gone bad, Dinell said.

Plantation owners properly maintained the reservoir when they used it but periodic monitoring and maintenance of the structure fell to the wayside when the plantation companies closed due to lack of profitability, he said.

The new owner and the state government apparently didn’t perform those tasks regularly, and the sad result was the devastation of property that followed and the loss of the lives, Dinell said.

“We didn’t map out the consequences (for not taking care of the dam),” he said.

In the corollary, lack of fore-sight by government officials in their planning could lead to major land development problems for Kaua’i, Dinell said.

  • Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com
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