Tourism growth bill clears committee

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council’s Planning Committee on Wednesday recommended passage of a bill implementing a County Charter amendment voters approved nearly three years ago.

In November 2008, in an attempt to control growth of Transient Accommodation Units on Kaua‘i, almost 70 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of a charter amendment that transferred the decision-making authority on TAU permits to the council from the Planning Commission.

The charter amendment allowed the council to keep this permitting power or return it to the commission through an ordinance that would either limit the TAU annual growth rate to no greater than 1.5 percent or establish such rate within the guidelines of a future General Plan.

On Feb. 8, the bill to implement this amendment was presented to the public for the first time at a commission meeting. After some work by commission members and the county Planning Department, Bill 2386 was transmitted to the council for further massaging and approval.

The bill changed so much that in August the council shelved it and introduced Bill 2410 to replace it.

On Wednesday the council’s Planning Committee introduced five more amendments, although one did not make it to the bill’s final version that will be considered by the full council next week.

There are some 9,200 TAUs on Kaua‘i, and approximately 4,650 pre-approved TAUs, according to the Planning Department. Those pre-approved projects have generated a lot of discussion on how to proceed with allowing them to be built while complying with the voters’ wish.

The committee’s final version of the bill seemed to appease both the developers and those who helped craft the charter amendment.

Amendments

The first amendment put the number of TAU certificates available for issuance during a five-year allocation cycle at 5.1 percent of the existing TAU inventory — a 1 percent compounded annual growth rate spanning the five-year allocation cycle.

This number must be decreased by 50 percent if the TAU inventory in the allocation base year exceeds the allocation base year TAU target.

But the total number of TAU certificates could be increased by 50 percent if the TAU inventory in the allocation base year is less than the TAU inventory in the allocation base year for the previous allocation cycle, and the TAU inventory in the allocation base year is less than the allocation base year TAU target.

This amendment was crafted — and tinkered with several times — to marry issuance of new certificates with already approved projects, without deviating from the initial intent of the charter amendment, which is to regulate responsible TAU growth.

A second amendment further clarified language in the bill related to exemptions. Such projects would include those under construction or where “substantial sums” have been spent, and also projects that have been approved prior to Dec. 5, 2008, when the charter amendment went into effect.

Another amendment to the bill clarified what a permitted project is.

The fourth amendment put the “substantial sum” as exceeding $500,000 or 20 percent of the Real Property Tax assessment of the land for the project, whichever would be less.

These first two amendments were introduced by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, and the last two by Councilman Mel Rapozo; all of them were by request.

Yukimura introduced the fifth amendment, which failed to pass.

It would have removed from the bill a section stating that, “Should an application exceed the number of available Transient Accommodation Unit certificates established by the Planning Commission in the applicable Allocation Cycle, the applicant may apply for either a zoning, use, subdivision or variance permit for more than one Transient Accommodation Unit pursuant to the  Charter Section 3.19(a) and (b).”

Committee members Rapozo, Nadine Nakamura and Dickie Chang voted against it, because of reasons that had been disclosed during an executive session with the County Attorney.

Next Wednesday, when the bill reaches full council, Chair Jay Furfaro and Councilman Tim Bynum will be able to add their thoughts and all seven members will vote on the final version of the bill.

Visit www.kauai.gov for the meeting’s agenda or to watch it online.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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