LIHUE — A bill to be discussed at today’s county council meeting is essentially restoring the zoning of specific areas on the South Shore back to what it was before. Sounds confusing, and it is.
It’s as clear as mud, said Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa during a recent Planning Committee meeting when he was attempting to understand exactly what happened and why Bill No. 2757, Draft 1, was being proposed in the first place.
When the 2015 South Shore Community Plan was created, it established special, form-based code, with design parameters and regulations that focused on maintaining the charm of the historic towns of Koloa and Kalaheo. Architectural features must be preserved, for example, and plantation homes must “maintain character,” said Kauai County Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull during last week’s meeting.
Essentially, a new form of zoning was applied specifically for three “Special Planning Areas,” within the South Shore Community Plan—the first of its kind in the state. Only trouble is that the new zoning ended up downgrading some property rights that were previously granted to owners.
Therefore, in essence, Bill 2757, Draft 1, restores the right of property owners to do certain commercial activities that they were previously entitled to for decades.
“Ultimately I don’t think it was the full intention of the department to downzone these properties,” Hull said. “We certainly didn’t want to take away their development rights.”
Kumu Hula Leina‘ala Pavao-Jardin had plans to expand her dance school on a commercial property she owns in Kalaheo, but after visiting the Planning Department to gain the proper permits to do so, she was told that it would now require a long, arduous public hearing process.
“I was shocked,” she said.
Previously, her property’s commercial zoning had allowed for such activities to take place with little fanfare. She added that there are plenty of people in the area who don’t even know that the change occurred, including families like hers that have paid commercial land taxes for years.
“I humbly ask that we restore, especially to those local families,” she said.
Karen Ono of the Kauai Board of Realtors has a family that owns a small commercial property in Kalaheo that was also affected by the change.
“After talking to the community, they had no idea about the changes,” she said during public testimony last week. “The residents need to be aware and informed.”
Roughly 30 properties were “downzoned” in Kalaheo, and about 20 in Koloa.
“This is a fix we need to make relatively quickly,” said Hull, who is in full support of the bill so that property owners like Pavao-Jardin can move forward with their projects.
There was some concern expressed during the meeting, however, about resort-type activities taking place due to re-zoning. The South Shore Community Plan eliminated resort use from these areas, but the proposed Bill 2757, Draft 1, could essentially allow a hotel to be constructed in the future.
While an amendment to continue to exclude resort uses in the bill was not approved at the Planning Committee meeting last week, it’s a discussion that Councilmember Luke Evslin said he would like to continue to have. He said that while he supports the intent of the bill, he has concerns about allowing resort use in those communities.
The Planning Committee approved Bill No. 2757, Draft 1, as amended, and it will be presented for approval by the full council on Wednesday. Several items are on the agenda for this week’s meeting, which starts at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the Council Chambers at the Historic County Building.
Coco Zickos, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.