Last night it was the moon, building and brightening, that lit the way through sighing trees when Koko and I went walking, while this morning it was the soft blue light of a cloudy pre-dawn.
The streets, wet from showers that passed through under cover of darkness, were nearly deserted, as is typically the case on a holiday. So it was easier for my neighbor Andy and me to chat without the distraction of passing cars, which are always a consideration when his dog is off her leash, as is often the case, because he likes to give her the freedom to be a dog.
Speaking of which, I heard the details of Humane Society Director Becky Rhoades’ citation, or rather, a credible account of her version of events. She apparently had just reached the Kealia Stream bridge, which marks the northernmost point where dogs are allowed on the Path, when she espied a dreaded unleashed outlaw, standing with its owner near yonder lifeguard stand.
With Toto in toto in a basket on her handlebars, she quickly pedaled down the Path to educate the errant owner. But as she began to deliver her lecture, his friend, a county park employee, reportedly interrupted and said, “Who the hell are you, you fucking bitch? You’re not even supposed to be on this part of the Path with a dog.”
At that point she demanded he call a ranger to cite the bad owner, as well as her, because she knew she was technically in the wrong, even though she was serving the greater good.
Now it could be argued that other public servants are technically in the wrong and not serving the public good, and that was the case that former Councilman Mel Rapozo made against the new TVR (transient vacation rental) bill on my radio show yesterday.
I must now add that Councilman Tim Bynum had a change of heart and did call in after all, toward what he thought was the end of the show. My co-host Caren Diamond and I were glad he did, as politicians should be willing to publicly discuss legislation they’ve proposed — especially those who like to characterize themselves as proponents of sunshine, transparency and open government.
What struck me as even more interesting, however, were some of the comments made by callers, particularly the observation that many of us have friends with vacation rentals. That’s true. It’s also true we tend to look more kindly upon them than the off-island investment consortiums that have developed the mini-resort TVRs along the North Shore, or the mainlanders using the income from a TVR to offset the costs of maintaining a second home.
We also tend to look more kindly upon the handful of farmers who have a TVR that helps them stay in farming than those who have built ag land mansions that rent for thousands of dollars per night and don’t even make a pretense of being linked to a farm.
So perhaps the tensions over this issue would be eased if we required TVR owners to be fulltime residents of Kauai, and to have a bonafide farming operation if it’s on ag land. It also seems it would be wise if the county first adopted an ag tourism bill that defines a farm before it wades into the quicksand of approving farm worker housing and ag land TVRs.
Several callers noted that zoning violations are rampant on Kauai, with Mel making the comment that locals are being “hammered” for minor offenses, while rich folks are let go because the county fears a lawsuit.
There’s no doubt that enforcement is often MIA on Kauai. A friend who is looking to buy a house said she was shocked at how many of the listings lack building permits, either entirely, or for various structures, such as the garage or an additional dwelling unit. And while some were good deals, she had to pass because they didn’t qualify for bank loans.
Then there are the palatial barns built on ag land that have the kitchens installed after inspection, giving the owners a house they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to have. This is so common that one draftsman told me he was actually trained to do this when he began working for a local architect who is active in the TVR biz.
And as Tim noted on the radio show, the county is still allowing new ag land subdivisions that are strictly residential, which pretty much makes a mockery of the agricultural district.
So until we get really clear on just what we want for Kauai’s agricultural lands, and are willing to get serious about enforcement in general, pursuing a new TVR bill is pretty much an exercise in futility.
But that would require politicians, and planning directors, who are both technically in the right and dedicated to the greater good.