Transient accommodations cap set

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Planning Department today will begin accepting applications for 252 available transient accommodation unit certificates for the next five years, after the county Planning Commission officially decided on a TAU cap Tuesday.

Preference will be on a first-come, first-serve basis for the current five-year allocation cycle, which began Jan. 1 and will end on Dec. 31, 2016.

“Three years ago the people of Kaua‘i voted for balance, sustainable development. They voted for responsible government and for a meaningful enforceable (county) General Plan,” North Shore resident Carl Imparato told the commission on behalf of the Kaua‘i Group of the Sierra Club.

Imparato said the Sierra Club would like to commend the department and the commission for “faithfully implementing the 2008 charter amendment and Ordinance 912.”

TAU applications must be submitted with a complete application for a zoning permit, use permit, and variance or subdivision approval for a project, according to county long-range planner Marie Williams. Once allocated, a TAU certificate will only be issued after all required permits have received final approval.

If an application is rejected, consideration will be given to the next applicant in line, Planning Director Michael Dahilig said.

TAU certificates, once issued, will be good for five years, unless the commission issues a year-long extension, renewable for a maximum of three years. All TAU certificates must be issued within the five-year allocation cycle. Otherwise they expire.

The Kaua‘i County Council last year passed Ordinance 912, limiting annual growth of TAU to 1.5 percent.

The ordinance was the fruit of a charter amendment approved by two-thirds of Kaua‘i voters on Nov. 2, 2008. The target growth of 1.5 percent over a five-year allocation cycle — as mandated in the ordinance — amounts to 5.1 percent.

However, a mechanism within the ordinance allows the county to further slash the growth rate of 5.1 percent in half, in order to catch up with a backlog of 3,000 to 4,000 pre-approved but not-yet-built projects which may qualify for an exemption.

When the amendment was approved, Kaua‘i had 9,203 TAU, according to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. A 1.5 percent annual growth since 2008 would have meant that Kaua‘i should have had 9,263 TAU in 2011. But when the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority released the 2011 Visitor Inventory Plan earlier this year, the actual TAU number came in at 9.872.

“Since we exceeded the target, the 5.1 percent of the inventory (growth) must be decreased by 50 percent,” Williams said.

Imparato said the 252 number of units adopted by the commission is “clearly a far cry” from the more than 4,500 approved between 2000 and 2008.

“It is very important to keep in mind, lest anybody contend that this new limit is Draconian or will have a drastic impact on jobs or the economy, that there is more than a 20-year supply of new tourist accommodations — that’s the 3,000 or 4,000 units in the backlog,” said Imparato, adding that the developers who hold those permits can build those units whenever they see fit to proceed.

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

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