guest viewpoint – The weather’s always changing, the climate needs stability

Mike Hough’s long treatise in the Friday Forum (“The weather’s the same, but the climate may be changing”) failed to acknowledge that it is he himself who started the Web site he praises, with its “late-breaking” petition.

How convenient.

Could it be that he wished to deceive readers into thinking he was impartial?

Here is an excerpt from the piece: “A late-breaking petition, which garnered almost 1,500 signatures within its first five days of life, has been circulating via the Internet through our community of residents and is slowly reaching out to current and past visitors to Kaua‘i. The petition, which is found on the Web site www.WeThePeopleOfKauai.com, concerns the currently proposed and recently amended Bill No. 2204 being discussed for passage by the Kaua‘i County Council. Signers asked the council to carefully re-evaluate and reconsider the bill, which brands as illegal certain existing vacation rentals and B&Bs and heavily regulates a variety of types of vacation rental properties in Kaua‘i, especially those on agriculturally zoned land.”

Once again, like many of those who gave public testimony at County Council meetings, we have someone with vested interests who fails to fully identify himself and his true motives, up front.

Another deception: To support his arguments, Mr. Hough talks about “legal” matters and cites a particular attorney as an authority figure who agrees with him — without mentioning, conveniently, that that attorney, Jonathan Chun, is hardly an unbiased observer. Chun is, in fact, the attorney for the Board of Realtors — not even close to unbiased parties in matters concerning land use. I would even go so far as to say that most laws supported by the real estate industry in the past have been harmful to Kaua‘i and the state of Hawai‘i, creating many of the problems we now suffer from. In fact, just knowing that real estate people support a particular law is a very good reason to take the opposite position.

Those deceptions alone would be enough for a reasonable person to dismiss the author’s entire argument as unreliable, but I would like to respond to some of his arguments.

A quick Internet search reveals the author is the owner of six VRs (vacation rentals) located in the upper Wailua region, an area that is zoned agricultural and is definitely not in one of our VDA (Visitor Destination Areas). One only has to read the General Plan and the CZO (Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance) to see that the framers clearly intended for all vacation accommodations to be located within VDAs, thus preserving residentially zoned neighborhoods for true residents. Most local people know what the word “resident” really means.

According to his own nightly rates listed on his “other” Web site (the VR site), his income from these six VRs would range from a low of $263,500 per year to a maximum of $380,380 per year. So much for the author’s and others’ arguments that the reason people have VRs is to “supplement their income” or to “pay the property taxes” or to “provide for their families.”

Mr. Hough says to deny him this income would leave him few alternatives, none of them desirable. I have another suggestion for him if he is denied the right to continue these illegal operations: Get a regular job, like most of the folks on Kaua‘i. There are much larger families on Kaua‘i who manage to lead very rewarding lives on much less money, because they appreciate the simplicity and beauty of island life, and because they have the moral fortitude not to violate their friendly, comfortable neighborhoods with an invasion of constantly changing paying “guests.”

We constantly hear people like the author of the piece justify business operations in residential or agricultural areas by bragging about how many workers they employ. Believe me, there are other employers on Kaua‘i who would love to hire some of those people. Or he could take his business model to a large state on the Mainland and put some people to work there. However he defends his actions, ignoring Hawaiian traditions and violating the very concept of zoning negates any possible good side effects.

The author offers “massive economic consequences” if he and his ilk are not allowed to continue destroying the very character of Kaua‘i. Like so many others before him, he likes to remind elected officials that taking a strong moral stand on this issue would “lower the tax base” and “weaken the local economy.” It seems to me that the only “economy” he cares about is his right to capitalize on the beauty and pristine nature of a small rural island for his own benefit — the hell with what is right or wrong.

Hough worries about “severe repercussions” if his business is prohibited, and states that the extent of such repercussions would be hard to calculate.

What is definitely not hard to calculate is the irreversible damage being done to the island of Kaua‘i by people who have no concept of what it is like to move here and quietly “fit in” and to honor and observe the true island lifestyle, without destroying it in the process. Wouldn’t that be “the best possible future for Kaua‘i”?

When Mr. Hough says that “many visitors who prefer accommodations away from the hotel and resort areas may ultimately choose not to return … and their visitor dollars will be forever lost to us,” I have this reply: The very reason businesses are able to lure paying customers is rooted in the natural beauty of the island itself, something that would not go away if some types of businesses were shut down. As much as you would like to think that charm toward customers lures them back (the same charm shown by all business owners looking for repeat business), it is the beaches, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, trails, etc., that make Kaua‘i such a desirable destination.

Not everybody worships “visitor dollars.”

And if there really are any such visitors who would refuse to come if they had to stay in a VDA, I say, “You missed the entire point of your visit. But don’t worry, other visitors will be happy to take your place.”

• Barbara Elmore is a resident of Lihu‘e, as well as a Planning Commission, and development watch dog.

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