Density concerns arise over housing proposal

LIHUE — Addressing the well-documented need for more affording housing on Kauai is a noble cause, but it should not come at the expense of losing the island’s rural character, a Kauai councilman said Wednesday.

The Kauai County Council considered a measure that could significantly increase affordable housing availability by providing an opportunity for landowners to construct new units on their property. Homestay operations or vacation rentals would not be allowed.

“The intent is to increase the number of affordable rental units without substantially altering neighborhood character,” said councilman Mason Chock, co-sponsor of the proposal.

However, not all council members were sold on the idea.

Councilman Ross Kagawa said officials must closely consider the implications of the bill and its impact on the island.

“I have some serious issues with this bill because I want to keep Kauai rural,” Kagawa said.

While the measure has merit and should be pursued, considerations should also be made for providing opportunities for new units to be provided on adjacent property to avoid clutter, over-density or congestion.

“I don’t want to become another Honolulu,” Kagawa said.

Supporters noted, however, that the bill pertains only to already densely populated areas within the Lihue Planning District.

Councilman Gary Hooser, the other bill co-sponsor, said the measure would allow homeowners in the Lihue district who meet certain guidelines to construct an additional rental unit on their property without directly impacting their neighbor.

There are size limitations, he said, including provisions for off-street parking and other requirements which need to qualify and strict prohibitions against short-term rentals.

As proposed, the maximum allowable size for new units, whether attached or detached, is 400 square feet for a lot ranging from 3,500 to 4,999 square feet, or 800 square feet for lots of up to 5,000 square feet.

Additional units would not be allowed on a lot that already has more than one dwelling unit.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she appreciated the intent of the bill and was pleased that it would support the creation of new construction jobs.

Before moving forward, council members cautioned that more work needs to be done.

Chock agreed and said he and Hooser have spent considerable time crafting the measure.

“It’s already been vetted with the county’s housing, planning, wastewater, water, and building departments,” he said.

“This has tremendous potential,” council chair Mel Rapozo said.

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Keith Erickson, managing editor and goverment reporter, can be reached at 245-0427 or kerickson@thegardenisland.com.

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