Kauai County Begins update on Zoning Ordinances

15 September 2004 - 8:00am

Pua’ena: Eco-tourism on Oahu North Shore or low rent resort?

Kauai Zoning Ordinance Changes
by Juan Wilson on 15 September 2004

Over the next year their will be a review and update of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance or CZO (Chapter 8 of the County Code). The CZO regulates and standards for the type of land use and developments throughout the county. Needless to say, this is one of the most important areas of government activity that will determine the future quality of life on Kauai.

My experience brings me to believe that the a balance of two issues is the key to planning for Kauai:

1) Quality of life for those living on Kauai
2) Sustainability of that life

Our mayor recently said "All (CZO) issues come down to growth issues. It's about keeping rural lifestyles and characteristics with a growing population." What the mayor didn't say was that there won't be any rural lifestyle unless there is a limit to population growth and development.

Kauai is quickly becoming an outlying suburb of the mainland with all the problems associated with suburbia: People in a rat race trapped in cars between an unhappy home life and a miserable job. Let's plan for an alternative. That doesn't mean building infrastructure for a future we don't want to live in.

Any changes will have long lasting effects on development on Kauai. County officials are inviting public participation in evaluating changes, but history suggests that developers and large scale land owners will have a disproportionate voice in zoning ordinance changes.

Community associations should pull together with local suggestions and submit them to the Planning Commission. It is likely that popular locally supported planning objectives will be incorporated into the resulting CZO and General Plan Update. Even individual voices are important in this process so we strongly suggest that individuals get involved with this process now.

The Honolulu planning firm of Helber Hastert & Fee (HHF) have a $90,000 contract to help the county review its plans. Note that the plan detail at the top of this article is an HHF plan that was very controversial on Oahu in the late 90's. It is important to understand if HFF has any agenda (hidden or otherwise) that will cause them to lead us astray of what is best for Kauai.

Article from

Supporters of the Pua'ena eco-camp proposed for Oahu's North Shore say it would be good for the economy and the environment. Opponents call it a thinly disguised resort that's against zoning rules there.

Bishop Estate, the owner of Pua'ena Point, invited Stanley Selengut to develop the 144 acres along the Kawailoa shoreline into an eco-camp like his other award-winning camps on the Caribbean island of St. John. Ecological restoration is a core element of the 252-unit eco-camp proposal which includes cafeterias; a store; swimming pools; tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts; open-air pavilions; and a childcare facility. Each eco-tent unit is a 256-square-foot wood-framed structure with fiberglass screening, recycled wood and plastic decks, and a skin of vinyl fabric. Solar panels heat the water, composting toilets eliminate the need for waste-water treatment, and photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into electricity.

The structures use recycled and Hawaiian materials throughout. Supporters want the eco-camp's 100 new jobs and economic boost to Haleiwa businesses, and they fear that blowing this opportunity could hamper future ecotourism ventures in Hawaii. Opponents insist the proposal violates the Urban-agriculture II zoning along the Kawailoa shoreline which allows recreational tents, but not a resort. City planners have told Selengut that the high density of tents doesn't fit the definition of an outdoor recreation camp, and among the alternative plans he has submitted at the city's request is one with 25 percent fewer eco-tents. The most vocal opposition comes from the million-dollar homeowners on Papailoa Road who don't want what they perceive as a low-rent camp next door.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Dec 98, by Lori Tighe; and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 11 Dec 98.


The Kauai Board of Realtors has an online copy of the Zoning Code at:

Vacation-rentals Targeted

by Tom Finnegan 8 September 2004 in The Garden Island News

County Planning Department officials are looking for the public's help as they update the county Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance over the next year, Kaua‘i Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste announced yesterday.

The CZO, Chapter 8 in the Kaua‘i County Code, contains all the regulations on land use and property development on the island. It is one of the most utilized chapters of the code.

Baptiste said vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfast operations will be "the starting point," a focus of the plan.
"I can't tell you what will come out" of the process, said Baptiste at his weekly media chat. "Other areas, I'm sure, will open. (We hope to) come up with something comprehensive."

"The project has just begun, and should be completed by summer of 2005," said Planning Director Ian Costa. "The project is expected to culminate with a recommended CZO ordinance for County Council adoption that puts a new ‘face' on Chapter 8 of the Kaua‘i County Code."

The public will be invited to provide input at public meetings in front of the Planning Commission and the County Council, said Costa. Meetings should be scheduled in about a month, he added.

The first step, Costa said, was utilizing $90,000 in funds to hire a Honolulu planning firm, Helber, Haster, and Fee, to help the planning staff with the review.

Their focus (and 20 percent of the funding) will start at gathering data on the amount of vacation-rental units, how long they have been in service, and how many are registered for hotel-room-tax purposes, said Costa.
Planning-firm officials (using the rest of the money) will then begin by looking at changes recommended by a consultant hired in the mid-1990s, as well as in the 2000 Kaua‘i General Plan that have yet to be adopted, Baptiste said.

They will then make recommendations before the County Council and the Planning Commission, and solicit public comments.

Asked why it has taken so long for changes, first suggested almost 10 years ago, to be implemented, Baptiste said, "People have been bringing this to our attention. It's not just something that happens overnight."
Costa added that, in 2000, the County Council spent six months discussing changing the code regarding vacation rentals. No bills were ever passed.

"It's a testament to how difficult (the process) is," said Costa.

"The problem is how to approach this legally and ethically," said the mayor, by avoiding "unintended consequences" such as hurting those long-time residents who have turned to vacation rentals to pay their taxes.

The community is polarized, Baptiste said, between those who believe what they do with their own property should not be regulated strongly by government, and those who believe that vacation rentals are destroying communities.

"All (CZO) issues come down to growth issues. It's about keeping rural lifestyles and characteristics with a growing population," Baptiste said.

"If you build your house and not live in it, is that not your right?" Baptiste asked. "The vacation rental (owners) are people who live here six months out of the year. It'll be interesting what comes out of it," the mayor added. "It's probably taken so long to come to the forefront. There are no quick solutions."

The whole issue, it seems, really boils down to a few words in the CZO. The CZO currently states that transient vacation rentals are allowed only in Visitor Destination Areas, such as Po‘ipu, Lihu‘e, Wailua-Kapa‘a and Princeville.

But, according to Costa, in 2000, a deputy county attorney decided in testimony before the County Council decided that the restrictions of vacation rentals did not apply to single-family residential homes.

In a copy of the CZO on the Kauai Board of Realtors Web site, "transient vacation rentals" are defined as "rentals in a multi-unit building."

But changing those words to include single-family residential houses would "regulate owners on how they can rent their homes," said Baptiste, and he wasn't sure if that was constitutional.

"It's a very complex issue that touches on many different" areas, he added.