Council revives ag land tax bill

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council will decide next week whether they want to override a vetoed law that would use lease rents, rather than fair market values, to calculate the real property taxes of biotech research land users.

The seven-member board, by a 5-0 vote, decided to revive the killed law during their meeting Wednesday, paving the way for a final vote on it to take place during their Dec. 17 meeting. 

“I think he (the mayor) sums it up — it’s not a legal issue, it’s a policy issue,” Council Chair Mel Rapozo said before casting his vote. “From what I’m reading from the mayor, he basically believes that the bill conflicts with the state constitution, and I tend to agree with him. I will be voting to support the veto next week.”   

Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro, a project specialist at Grove Farm Company, was recused from voting on it.

Councilman Gary Hooser, meanwhile, was absent from the meeting and did not vote on the issue. 

Grove Farm Company officials vocally opposed the law’s passage before it was vetoed last week by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

The vetoed law, introduced by former Councilman Tim Bynum earlier this year, proposes to divide agricultural lands on Kauai into three separate categories — pasture, diversified agriculture and biotech research — when real property tax assessments are calculated. 

“I think that we need to put some attention to what I think was the driving force behind the intention of this bill, which is to create more equitable access to agriculture lands where leased properties are being valued at a higher rate,” Councilman Mason Chock Sr. said.

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