Kaua‘i’s Coalition for Responsible Government recently submitted to the County Clerk’s Office more than 2,900 signatures for its petition to place a charter amendment on the November ballot.
Carl Imparato, a North Shore resident, called the citizens initiative a “big milestone” that required much hard work from residents over recent months.
The next step will be for the county to determine whether at least 1,917 of those signatures are valid. If so, the measure will qualify to come before the voters, a news release from the group says.
The group believes that reforming county government through a Charter amendment is the only hope for ensuring that the county’s General Plan will be followed.
Keone Kealoha, a member of the petitioners’ committee, explained that “the 2000 General Plan calls for an annual growth rate of tourist units of between 1 percent and 1.5 percent.
The high end of that range corresponds to 1,000 additional tourist units between 2000 and 2008. But in that time period, the Planning Commission has allowed the approval or construction of more than 4,000 tourist units.
“Ignoring the General Plan is creating enormous impacts on our infrastructure, traffic and highway congestion, and demands for groundwater, wastewater treatment, landfills, energy resources and emergency services,” he says. “It is also creating shortages of affordable housing, overcrowding at parks and beaches, and harming Kauai’s character, pace and quality of life.
“This pace of growth is simply unsustainable,” Kealoha says. “We already have tremendous problems and that’s without the impact of the thousands of tourist units the Planning Commission has approved in recent years but have not yet been built. We simply cannot afford to allow county government to continue to bypass the General Plan.”
Petitioners said that during their conversations with nearly 3,000 residents, beach preservation came up time and again as a concern related to resort development, the news release says.
“Kama‘aina lamented that many of the beaches they enjoyed as children have been lost to tourist development over the years,” signature gatherer Judy Dalton said. “They were eager to sign this petition to hold on to the last undeveloped beaches on Kaua‘i for their children and grandchildren to enjoy.”
Rich Hoeppner, another member of the petitioners’ committee, described the charter amendment.
“This Charter amendment will transfer the authority to approve tourist development from the appointed Planning Commission — which has completely ignored the General Plan — to the elected County Council, which approved the General Plan and can ensure that it is followed,” he says. “The charter amendment would also give the council the flexibility to transfer the authority to approve tourist development back to the Planning Commission, but only under the condition that the Planning Commission would be required to comply with the General Plan’s growth parameters.”
Coalition members said they evaluated all of the alternatives for addressing the problem of overdevelopment and concluded that the only realistic solution lies in giving the voters the opportunity to repair county government through a charter amendment.
“This charter amendment is not about stopping growth,” Hoeppner says. “It is about ensuring that county goverment will responsibly implement the county’s General Plan. It will require the County Council to finally take ownership of the problem.”
He acknowledged some people have claimed that a charter amendment is not the best way to deal with this problem, and that instead the County Council should be lobbied to address the problem.
“That sounds nice … but where has the council been for the past eight years when the approval rate for tourist units has been four times the General Plan’s high growth scenario?” Hoeppner says.
“Is this charter amendment perfect? Maybe not.” he says. “But realistically, this charter amendment is the only alternative to the Mauification of Kaua‘i and business as usual, in which development is approved regardless of what the General Plan says.”
For information, visit crgkauai.org or call the Coalition for Responsible Government at 635-1659.
Proposed amendment to the Kaua‘i County Charter
Should the County Charter be amended to empower the County Council to ensure adherence to the General Plan by transferring the power to approve permits for tourist accommodations to the County Council upon a two-thirds affirmative vote of the Council and allowing the Council, if it enacts a rate-of-growth limit that is consistent with the General Plan, to delegate the approval authority to the Planning Commission?
Section 14.06 of the Charter of the County of Kauai directs the County Council to enact a general plan to govern the future physical development of the county;
In the November 2000 Kauai County General Plan, the Planning Department’s estimate for the average daily visitor count for the year 2020 is between 24,000 and 28,000 average daily visitors (compared to 17,200 in 1998). The high-end estimate of 28,000 would, using a conservative occupancy rate, correspond to an increase in the demand for transient overnight accommodation units of approximately 1.5% (or approximately 125) transient overnight accommodation units per year;
During the period 2000 through 2007, the Kauai Planning Commission has granted approvals for more than 4,000 transient overnight accommodation units, such that if each of these approved units is constructed, the resulting growth rate would be more than 4 times the high end of the growth range in the November 2000 Kauai County General Plan;
Continued approvals by the Kauai Planning Commission at this rate would allow an increase in construction of transient overnight accommodation units of greater than 100% between 2000 and 2020, far exceeding the increase envisioned in the General Plan;
The construction and occupancy of such units would lead to a commensurately excessive increase in the average daily visitor count;
The rate of growth in transient overnight accommodations in the County has already surpassed the capability of the County’s infrastructure, and growth in the average daily visitor count far beyond the planning growth range contemplated in the general plan would create detrimental impacts in areas that include: increased traffic and highway congestion; increased demands for limited police, fire, and emergency services; overcrowding at parks and beaches; unsustainable demands for limited resources including groundwater, wastewater treatment, landfills, energy; low-to-moderate income housing shortages exacerbated by the demand to import additional service-sector workers; additional noise from helicopter tours, motorcycle rentals and other tourist activities; and negative impacts on Kauai’s character, pace and quality of life;
The negative impacts cited above threaten the clean and healthful environment to which Hawaii’s residents are entitled pursuant to Article XI, Section 9 of the Hawaii State Constitution;
The County Council is responsible for funding the additional infrastructure necessary to mitigate such impacts pursuant to Section 3.10 of the Charter of the County of Kauai;
Therefore the people of Kauai find that the general welfare of the County and its residents requires that the Charter of the County of Kauai be amended as specified below.
Article III of the Charter of the County of Kauai is hereby amended by adding a new Section to Article III to read as follows:
Section 3.12 Implementation of the General Plan.
The power to process and to issue any zoning, use, subdivision, or variance permit for more than one transient accommodation unit shall be vested in and exercisable exclusively by the council. As used in this Section, “transient accommodation unit” shall mean an accommodation unit or a portion thereof in a hotel, timeshare facility, resort condominium, fractional ownership facility, vacation rental unit or other similarly-used dwelling that is rented or used by one or more persons for whom such accommodation unit is not the person’s primary residence under the Internal Revenue Code.
Any applicant seeking the issuance of a zoning, use, subdivision or variance permit for more than one accommodation unit shall certify to the planning department whether any use of the units as a transient accommodation unit is projected by the applicant. Prior to granting any such permit for a transient accommodation unit, the council shall conduct a public hearing and make a finding that granting such permit would be consistent with the planning growth range of the general plan and in the best interests of the county and its people. Approval of any such application shall require a favorable vote of two thirds (2/3) of the entire membership of the council. Appeals of any decision by the council relating to such permits must be instituted in the circuit court within thirty (30) days after entrance of the final decision of the council.
The council may by ordinance authorize the planning commission to process and issue such permits, or certain of them, on terms and conditions as the council may deem advisable, only upon the council’s enactment of a rate of growth ordinance that limits the rate of increase in the number of transient accommodation units in the county to no greater than one-and-one-half percent (1.5%) per annum on a multi-year average basis, or such growth rate that is within the planning growth range of a future general plan adopted pursuant to Section 14.08.
The council shall adopt such ordinances, laws, rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out the terms and intent of this amendment to the Charter.
If any provision of this amendment shall be held by a final order of a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, all of the other terms of the amendment shall remain in full force and effect.