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Shoreline setback bill deferred

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council Planning Committee opted Wednesday to defer action on a bill that would amend the county’s shoreline setback ordinance.

“More work needs to be done here,” said Council Vice Chair Mason Chock Sr.

The purpose of Bill 2461, Draft 1 is to protect life and property, ensure the longevity and integrity of Kauai’s coastal and beach resources and strengthen current shoreline setback requirements by incorporating science-based erosion rates established in the Kauai Coastal Erosion Study, according to the document. 

Several people testified against the proposed changes Wednesday, some urging the council to go as far as starting over. 

Karen Diamond said Kauai’s current shoreline setback ordinance is one of the best in the state and a model for other communities. The amendments on the table, however, weaken it completely, she said.

“It takes what was a very good bill and makes it completely un-understandable, and takes the best of it and convolutes it,” she said. “I think this has gone way far in a direction that does not benefit anybody.” 

Hanalei resident Carl Imparato said there are two critical issues he sees that indicate the bill is heading in a “very bad direction.” The applicability language, he said, would exempt certain shoreline properties from almost all of the requirements in the ordinance. Another concern, he said, is a proposal in the bill to reduce the shoreline setback requirements for large lots from 100 feet to between 40 and 60 feet.

“If this language remains in the final bill, the county council would be walking away, I believe, from its duty to protect the public interest in preserving scenic, coastal resources,” he said. 

What’s more, Imparato said the proposal seems to be “tailor made” to allow for eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s planned development — Hanalei Plantation Resort — to be twice as close to the shoreline.

Councilman Ross Kagawa said he was bothered by testimony from people who believe that the council doesn’t side with a certain portion of the community because they are “developer centric.”

“While I think a lot of the points raised by the public are valid regarding specific issues on the North Shore, I believe the island is much more than the North Shore,” he said. “We need a strong shoreline setback bill that is based on reason, rationale and science.”

Councilman Gary Hooser, who is not a member of the Planning Committee, said he is not only concerned that the ordinance holds up legally, but also looks out for the best interests of the public for future generations.

“And I believe that aesthetics, view planes and other considerations have just as much rational basis for lawmaking,” he said.

Councilman Mel Rapozo’s priority is passing a legal bill.

“If we cannot get it passed that, then it needs to stop,” he said.

What’s important, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said, is protecting resources, property and life.

“As we know, the coastline is very varied, and we need to make it workable so that it can protect,” she said. “It’s been a long journey, but I think we’re almost there.”

The council voted unanimously to defer the measure until July 2.

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