Thursday, March 25, 2010

Musings: An Earful

Today’s topic for my KKCR radio show is transient vacation rentals — specifically the bill legalizing TVRs on ag land recently introduced by Councilman Tim Bynum.

Mel Rapozo, an outspoken opponent, quickly agreed to call in, so in an attempt to provide the sort of “balanced discussion” that some critics had requested, I asked Tim and some TVR advocates if they’d like to participate.

The TVR advocates demurred, claiming they’d been subjected to threatening phone calls and vandalism of at least one home after they spoke at a public hearing.

Tim didn’t give me an answer right away, but instead said he wanted to talk to me. When lunch didn’t fit into my schedule, he said, “How about if we take a walk — on the Path?”

To interject a bit of backstory, I’d heard from a friend more than a year ago that Tim, a regular reader of this blog, fantasized about running into Koko and me one morning and joining us on our walk. I shared that with another friend, who sent an email last Friday with the message:

I wonder....if Tim B will still be fantasizing taking walks w/ you and KoKo after reading today's blog.

It was an extremely critical post, so I wasn’t sure, when I invited Tim to be on the radio, if he would even respond. But politicians are bigger, thicker-skinned — dare I say needier? — than that, which is how Koko and I found ourselves meeting Tim at Lihi Park — the southerly end of the section where dogs are allowed — yesterday afternoon.

Now, readers of this blog know that I am no fan of the Path, but it was a lovely day and the ocean — turquoise and glassy under an offshore wind — looked absolutely ono. Of course, I couldn’t legally access it for a swim so long as Koko was at my side, so I focused instead on the task at hand: listening to Tim.

I can’t share all of what we discussed, because much of it was off the record, but suffice to say that he was doing nearly all of the talking. So we were a good 90 minutes into the walk/talk before I finally had a chance to ask him a few questions about his bill, which he said was needed to spare Kauai County the cost of having to defend itself against the inevitable legal challenges to the existing vacation rental law. To avoid that litigation, which would cost a minimum of $5 million, the law needed to be rewritten to remove the illegal language and give TVR owners on ag land a chance to apply for use permits, too.

“Assuming that’s the case, and I'm not convinced it is, why did you delete the provision that requires an inspection first?” I asked.

“Because I was told it was illegal,” Tim said.

It seemed unfathomable that the county wouldn't even have the right to inspect a person’s property before issuing a special permit for a use that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed, but I went on to my next question.

“You say you are a proponent of open government, so why did you delete the provision that required the planning department to make the applications available to the public? How is the public supposed to participate in the process? Don’t the people have a right to comment on a special use permit?”

“I don’t have an answer for you,” Tim responded, before adding that the only real objections people could raise to such a permit would be noise and other such disturbances, and those concerns could be addressed by calling the police.

This was followed by some rather pointed remarks on my part about the moral implications of rewarding people for skirting the law, the county's tendency to cave in to big money pressure, slack enforcement and the continual undermining of the county's ag lands.

By this time, we were nearly at the end of our walk, which, with numerous pauses along the way, had spanned some three hours.

“So, are you going to do on the radio show?” I finally asked.

No, Tim said, he really wanted to, he was torn, he would if he could, but he had been warned by the County Attorney even when discussing the bill in the public Council session not to say too much because of legal concerns. And so he didn’t think he should risk coming on the radio and perhaps saying something he shouldn’t.

Now that seems to be a rather sorry state of affairs, that a Councilmember can’t even articulate to the public the rationale for a proposed law that will have tremendous impact on Kauai’s land use policies. I guess we’re just supposed to trust that the same folks who passed the supposedly fatally flawed bill now know how to fix it — and have our best interests at heart.

I was annoyed, but Tim, a self-proclaimed eternal optimist, found reason to look on the bright side.

“Just think, we had this wonderful walk and it didn’t cost us a thing,” he said, beaming. “We need more places like this.”

“Actually,” I said, “I would have been just as happy walking on the beach.”

In fact, I would have been happier, because I wouldn’t have had to worry about whether Koko’s doodoo bags were prominently displayed — just one requirement of the dogs on the path law — or if someone would notice she wasn’t wearing a license that she doesn’t have. I wouldn’t have had to deal with the lady who persisted in having her dog make friends with Koko, who had her back up — a clear signal that a snap or snarl is pending, which is exactly what happened.

“I know some people like this, and that’s fine,” I said, recalling the obvious enjoyment of the folks I’d passed pushing strollers and cruising on roller blades and bikes. “But we don’t need something like this all around the island. There should be places you can go that aren’t so structured.”

Because despite Tim’s comment that attempts to restrict people from having dogs on the Path is a violation of their freedom, turning the coastline into a county park, with all the attendant rules and regulations, constitutes an even greater encroachment on our freedom.

And while we didn’t have to pay an admission fee, the multi-million Path is certainly far from free.

“I understand,” replied Tim, a former therapist who frequently punctuates his conversations with such agreeable phrases. “But I support it for the same reason Mayor Baptiste did: lateral access.”

Actually, there is a lateral access. It’s called the shoreline. And if the county wouldn’t allow people to construct seawalls and other fortifications, which apparently will be required to protect the Path in at least two places where erosion is already significant, or build their houses and hotels with inadequate setbacks, we’d be able to get around most everywhere on it.

But as I already know, and the conversation with Tim made even more clear, when it comes to what passes for “planning” on Kauai, the emphasis is on “use” rather than “land.”

Discouraged and depressed, I said my final good-byes, and drove away, convinced that the TVR bill, the Path and even democracy — at least, the dysfunctional, drama-laden, undemocratic way it’s practiced on Kauai — bode ill for this little island.

23 comments:

Brad Parsons said...

Yes, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Don’t the people have a right to comment on a special use permit?

--duh - it's called a PUBLIC hearing - do you ever read or research anything you write about?

Maria said...

--duh - it's called a PUBLIC hearing - do you ever read or research anything you write about?


DUH! don't you mean, doh!?

Anonymous said...

Joan, You are correct we already had lateral access called a shoreline, but it seems many people are not happy until they "domesticate" every aspect of nature.

As the great southern philosopher and poet Ray Stevens penned, "You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you've a mind to.

Joan Conrow said...

Don’t the people have a right to comment on a special use permit?

--duh - it's called a PUBLIC hearing - do you ever read or research anything you write about?


You're missing my point. It's difficult to make meaningful comments when you don't know who is applying and can't see their application.

Anonymous said...

I would love to walk my dog on the beach too! But it is illegal!

We need better laws for you and Koko to enjoy Kauai.

Anonymous said...

You're missing my point. It's difficult to make meaningful comments when you don't know who is applying and can't see their application.

--you are missing an education - the zoning ordinances are available for you to read, and the agenda for planning commission meetings are posted with the names of applicants, online. again, you don't research, you don't know you are talking about. and you listen to politicians without verifying anything.

Anonymous said...

DUH! don't you mean, doh!?

March 26, 2010 6:25 AM

no, why, are you homer simpson?

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you, but I already do know that the PC agendas, with the names of the applicants, are posted on line. The current TVR bill was intended to give people access to the names of the applicants and their completed applications in a timely fashion, well prior to the item being placed on the agenda, so they could comment in a thoughtful fashion. The new bill deletes that provision, which hampers public participation.

Anonymous said...

Communication (0112112010) from Tim Bynum, Councilmember, requesting the Administration's presence to provide a comprehensive overview of the fiscal condition of the County of Kaua'i for the upcoming Fiscal Year 201O-201l......

?
?
?
what's this agenda item mean

Anonymous said...

"hampers public participation"

--- No, there are other provisions in the zoning ordinances that allow for public participation.

Anonymous said...

Tim always does most of the talking and most of that is whining. As a FORMER staunch supporter I am sickened as to how he has conducted himself. He is known as the Council's biggest baby. It really is pathetic. My friends always hound me about wasting a vote on such a whiner.

Anonymous said...

Three hours listening to Tim - that's about the average amount of time he steals from any individual willing to let him talk.

Anonymous said...

"but I already do know that the PC agendas, with the names of the applicants, are posted on line."

"It's difficult to make meaningful comments when you don't know who is applying and can't see their application."

--Which is it? either the information is available or it isn't ---

Joan Conrow said...

--Which is it? either the information is available or it isn't ---

Since you are so well-informed, surely you must know that the answer is, it is and it isn't. Even the Planning Commission was being asked to approve TVRs without benefit of reviewing the full application. After some citizens and a few commissioners objected, the planning department finally did provide commissioners with some information, although it's still unclear whether they got it all.

Anonymous said...

"the agenda for planning commission meetings are posted with the names of applicants, online"

You can't tell everything from looking at the agenda. Applicants are not always owners.

Anonymous said...

You can't tell everything from looking at the agenda.

True. The TVR list of "blanket approvals" was not specifically on the PC agenda, but included as an attachment. The agenda was generic.

Anonymous said...

http://www.kauaipropertytax.com/Main/Home.aspx


use a little bit of your own brain and look stuff up...

Anonymous said...

I would love to walk my dog on the beach too! But it is illegal!

No it isn't. Dogs are illegal in county beach parks but you can have them on the beaches (state) if they're leashed.

Anonymous said...

only here, and a few weird places on the mainland populated by strange people, would a bike path be seen as some sort of bag thing. its bizzare


dwps

Anonymous said...

--Which is it? either the information is available or it isn't ---

It's available to the PD but they don't want to give it to us. Maybe hostile 'Anonymous' could tell us why/ It sounds like he works in PD

Anonymous said...

It sounds like he works in PD. I wish.

I know enough to read before I make wild random accusations.

Anonymous said...

"I know enough to read before I make wild random accusations."..... and that my friend puts you way ahead of many commentator's on this blog.