POSTED: 4 AUGUST 2007 - 8:00am

New agricultural subdivision moratorium proposed

image above: GoogleEarth view of Kalaheo suburbs built on what were recently pastures

[Editor's Note: We congratulate the mayor for waking up to the crisis of loss of prime agricultural land to high-end subdivisions, even at this late stage. But we have two caveats to his plan.

First, the thirteen current applications for subdivisions should be subject to the moratorium and not exempted. The financial and real estate markets are crumbling. It is likely the worst damage coming to this island is just getting into the pipeline now. We should stop those projects now while in the permitting phase.

Second, "affordable" housing should not be an exception to the moratorium. "Affordable" is a code word for "Suburban Sprawl". It is denser and will do even more damage to agland than upscale McMansions. Affordable housing should be near our current town centers, not in isolated agland. Resident farmers might be excluded from a moratorium under strictly controlled conditions.]

by Mary Daubert, Kauai Public Information Officer, on 3 August 2007

Mayor Bryan Baptiste sent a bill to the Planning Commission today that would
put a temporary moratorium on the creation of new agricultural subdivisions on Kaua‘i.

The intent of the bill is to preserve and protect existing agricultural lands while the
County Council and Planning Department work towards developing new legislation and regulations to that end.

The only exception to this moratorium is any proposed subdivision that would be created solely for the development of affordable housing.

“Over the last decade, agricultural subdivisions have proliferated on Kaua‘i,” said the mayor. “This was confirmed when I did an aerial inspection of the island in a helicopter last spring. I believe that a temporary moratorium on the creation of new agricultural subdivisions is urgently needed to protect Kaua‘i’s remaining agricultural land from being used for non-agricultural uses.”

Eight years ago, while he was a councilmember, Baptiste introduced a similar bill, but it was defeated.

“After seeing the extent of the growth of agricultural subdivisions last year, I feel that we cannot wait any longer. We must take action now to maintain our rural identity in the best interest of the health and welfare of the residents of Kaua‘i,” said the mayor.

Currently there are 13 active applications for new agricultural subdivisions throughout the island that have received tentative approval from the Planning Department, and are not subject to the proposed moratorium.

Explaining why these applications would be exempt from the moratorium, the mayor said, “We believe that an active application that’s already been tentatively approved for a new agricultural subdivision is the correct benchmark since a substantial investment is required from this point forward.”

To prevent a flood of applications and requests for approval due to the impending
legislation, the proposed bill states that a moratorium on applications and approvals on new agricultural subdivisions would be effective Aug. 3, the date the proposal was submitted.

“Failure to impose more effective regulations on agricultural land will allow development to proceed in a manner that could irreversibly change the character of Kaua‘i,” said the mayor.

“Already there are numerous problems in the regulation of agricultural lands, such as the creation of residential condominium property regimes, an increase in density with additional dwelling units, and commercial activities taking place on these lands.”

He said that without a moratorium the availability of agricultural lands on Kaua‘i may be severely curtailed before any new county ordinances are enacted to save them.

A statewide effort to preserve and protect agricultural lands began in earnest two years ago when the 2005 Hawai‘i State Legislature passed Act 183, which requires all counties in Hawai‘i to identify important agricultural lands in their jurisdictions.

Through funding provided by the Legislature, Kaua‘i was ultimately selected for the first Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) study and will serve as a model for the rest of the islands.

Conducted by the University of Hawai‘i’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, the IAL study focuses on the Ko¯loa district and surrounding areas including Po’ipu and Kala¯heo.

The purpose of the study is to develop a database and maps to assist the county with the identification of important agricultural lands as well as the methodology and process for the determination of these lands.

A preliminary report on the IAL study is expected to be submitted to the 2008 Hawai‘i State Legislature in January, while a final report that will likely include revisions as a result of new state legislation is due at the end of the session.
Later this fiscal year, the Kaua‘i County Planning Department is scheduled to initiate a comprehensive study of important agricultural lands for the rest of the island.

“We’re in the process of developing the scope of work for our own Important Agricultural Lands study,” said Planning Director Ian Costa. “Information gleaned from the University of Hawai‘i’s IAL study will be very helpful with determining how the county’s study will be managed, and result in more effective land classifications and regulations.”

If everything goes as planned, a request for proposal for the county’s IAL study will be issued early next year.

Also in the works is an update of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance for the County of Kaua‘i.

Created in 1972, the CZO provides regulations and standards for land development and the construction of buildings and is intended to regulate development to ensure its compatibility with the overall character of the island.

Last year, Helber, Hastert and Fee, a Honolulu-based consultant, was contracted by the Planning Department to prepare a CZO update. The scope of work for their services include:

review a 1998 Draft CZO Update to ensure that it is consistent with the Kaua‘i General Plan, which was updated in 2000; incorporate any amendments that were made since 1998; conduct meetings with the Planning Department staff as well as the general public to get their input on the project; and prepare a new CZO update.

“Efforts to preserve and protect existing agricultural lands through legislation and
regulation by the state Legislature, our County Council and Planning Department are absolutely necessary to ensure the long-term availability of agricultural lands for agricultural use,” said the mayor. “Permitted uses and a procedure for reviewing and allowing these uses must be clearly defined. I urge them to do this expeditiously.”

9 August 2007 - 6:00pm HST

TGI Article #10 The Mayor's Moratorium We not only support it, but want a few more moratoria