County won’t rezone Poipu neighborhood

LIHUE — The county will not change the designation of a Poipu neighborhood after many residents and property owners objected.

County planning officials, in response to concerns from Whalers Cove residents, said they will keep the active residential zoning designation for the area. 

Residents and property owners in Poipu had been divided on whether their neighborhood next to Baby Beach should be recognized and designated by the county as a visitor destination area.  

Those plans were initially proposed in the county’s South Kauai Community Plan, which seeks to guide future development and land use in Poipu, Kukuiula, Koloa, Omao, Lawai and Kalaheo for the next two decades. 

Those in favor of the move, many of whom operate a transient vacation rental, said a new designation for the residential area surrounding Whalers Cove Resort would make the permitting process for their homes more seamless and align the neighborhood with others in Poipu and Kukuiula that allow for visitor accommodations.  

Opponents said the move may alter the close-knit character of their community and open the doors to more transient vacation rentals in one of the only remaining residential bastions for island residents in the two towns. 

“It’s sad that these old people have to fight for their right to live in that neighborhood — this is wrong,” said Sam A. Lee, who lives on the North Shore but grew up in the neighborhood around Whalers Cove. 

County zoning laws, approved by the Kauai County Council four years ago, require all vacation units, including transient vacation rentals, or TVRs, to be located within defined visitor destination areas — oftentimes abbreviated as VDA. 

Single-family vacation units outside of VDA boundaries, like those in the Whalers Cove neighborhood, are allowed to operate, if they existed before March 2008 and hold a non-conforming use certificate approved by county Planning Department officials. 

Some, but not all, sections of Poipu, Kukuiula and Koloa are designated as visitor destination areas. 

Of the 58 properties located within the Whalers Cove neighborhood, 27 had one or more units legally operating as a TVR in 2014, according to county planning documents.  

“The TVR law, as it was passed, is ruining the neighborhood,” Lee said at a recent Planning Commission meeting.

Those who operate TVRs in the neighborhood saw things differently. 

Barbara Britton, a Carmel, California, resident who has operated a TVR in the neighborhood since 1982, said she and her family “love Kauai and respect the neighborhoods and appreciate being a part of the island of Kauai.” 

“We have always paid our taxes on time and respect the neighbors who are not vacation rentals, and over the years, have maintained many friendships with these people,” Britton wrote in an email to county planning officials. “The majority of our tenants … have been coming for years and treat the home as if it were their own. They love the house and love the street.” 

Other were worried that the neighborhood’s unified social fabric would be torn if the zoning in the area was changed.  

Sueko Ishibashi, an 84-year-old Kukuiula resident who was born and raised in Koloa, has lived in the Whalers Cove neighborhood almost 47 years and has enjoyed the friendships she has formed with her neighbors.

“Even though I live alone, I feel safe because I have wonderful neighbors and we watch out for one another,” Ishibashi wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission. “If this rezoning goes through, what will happen to our neighborhood and our neighborhood watch? There needs to be a balance between investors, whose main goal is to turn a profit, and those who truly love our island and choose to perpetrate our island lifestyle.”

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