Emergency permitting bill passed

LIHUE — Due to April’s historic flooding and landslides that left many homes destroyed or damaged, the Kauai County Council passed an emergency bill Wednesday that would expedite the permitting process for impacted homesteads, residential and agricultural buildings.

The county is aware of 380 damage assessments the bill would affect.

Much of the nearly three-hour discussion centered on whether commercial home use should be added to the bill, which was in one of the amendments proposed by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, that didn’t get passed.

Because it’s an emergency bill, Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said a line has to be drawn.

“I think at some point we just have to accept that not everybody’s going to like this bill and what is priority for me is priority for local residents that long-term rent, or just use their house as their residents,” he said.

Kagawa said he wants to make sure the North Shore is rebuilt the correct way.

“We’ve got to be very careful here when we give the administration instructions on what to do. Let’s make sure we’re not contributing to more abuses in the future,” he said.

Councilmember Derek Kawakami said the bill is a step in the right direction.

“The bottom line is when we stay focused on who we’re trying to help, those very people who live on Kauai that perhaps didn’t have flood insurance, that went through devastating experience and lost their property and went through extreme amounts of stress,” he said.

The bill states the council finds that many households are unable to find safe shelter on their property and declares that an emergency exists; it emphasizes the need for residents and landowners to begin rebuilding immediately, while adhering to county regulations and building codes.

The bill allows residents whose real tax classification is that of homestead, residential or agricultural, who have been impacted by the flood, to receive qualification for no-fee expedited permitting on any building or structure damaged in the flood.

The Planning Department will issue a decision within three days of an application regarding zoning permits. Once an approval is granted, the Department of Public Works and the Building Division will process building permit applications within 30 days.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo said the bill is for families throughout the island who sustained significant damages due to the disaster.

“It’s a good measure, it says everybody who got affected and in a way that won’t put this county in a bad predicament in a year or two from now when we review these properties and find out, ‘uh oh,’ and we’ve got another predicament,” he said.

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Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegardenisland.com.

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