Another day dawned with no rain in sight, and the grass in Hanalei, of all places, is already starting to turn brown. And summer is still officially five weeks away. This is not good.
As I drove up to the North Shore yesterday, I heard a guest on KKCR talking about how Kauai is the wettest spot on Earth, which may be debatable. But even if it’s true, the reference is solely to Waialeale, not the entire island, so it creates a false sense of abundance.
In truth, water remains a dwindling and precious commodity on Kauai, like ag land. So I was a bit concerned when farmer Jerry told me that former Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura has proposed holding off on the enforcement of transient vacation rentals (TVRs) on ag lands until the important ag land study is completed. It seems rather ludicrous to back off after the County Council went through the laborious process of drafting a TVR ordinance that specifically precludes their use on ag land.
As Jerry noted, it gives folks the idea that only the lands deemed “important” will be worth saving, which then puts all the other ag lands up for grabs. And if we’re ever going to achieve anything close to self-sufficiency in food, we’ll need all the ag land we can get. Such an approach also fails to help those who IMHO are the only ones who should have a TVR on ag land — the true farmers who could use the income boost from a rental to help them keep farming.
Meanwhile, Joe Brescia is trying to add another vacation rental to the burgeoning North Shore mix. Construction quietly resumed on his oceanfront house yesterday as workers began installing brackets atop the concrete pilings that are atop the burials.
Work has been shut down since last fall, well before the Burial Council rejected the burial treatment plan. No new plan has yet been developed, and when I checked in with Nancy McMahon at the state Historic Preservation Division, she didn’t know when it might be ready. Nor could she tell me what Hawaiian groups had been consulted, as was ordered by the courts.
Although Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe last year would not approve an injunction stopping construction, she did advise Brescia’s attorneys that if he continued work on the project, it would be at his own risk because the Burial Council ultimately might decide to relocate the burials that were covered in cement without the Council’s approval.
Apparently now he’s willing to risk it. Maybe it’s because the construction business has fallen so badly that he can get guys to work on it for less than he would have had to pay a year ago. But if it does get completed, and that’s still an open question, I’m not sure how he’ll be able to get approval to use it as a vacation rental. He can’t grandfather in that use like so many of the other houses in the neighborhood. And surely he’s not going to live there……
On my way up there to see what was happening, I picked up a friend who was born and raised in Hanalei and is not at all political. As we turned into the neighborhood, his jaw tightened and his face took on a scowl.
“You haven’t been here in a while, have you?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “because when I see this, it just pisses me off and then all I want to do is instigate. So I just stay away.”
In this way, locals are subtly pushed out of the places they've always frequented. Because going to the beach and getting pissed off is not good.
The changes that have recently occurred there — and are still occurring, with construction under way on several lots — are dramatic. Aside from the massive houses that line the shoreline — some of them two deep — the once largely deserted beach is now occupied by sunscreen-slathered tourists with their beach umbrellas and teak lounge chairs. At the access path stood one of the guys who had formed a consortium of investors to build many of the vacation rentals along an incredibly beautiful stretch of sand that he, in his arrogance, has renamed “Banana Beach.” Sigh.
Kaiulani Huff is still camping out up there, on the beach side of Brescia’s lot, her little encampment standing in stark contrast to the luxurious houses going up on all sides.
This one, the former Billie Jean King property, is being developed by an Australian vacation home consortium. They were kind enough to install the septic system on the makai side of the house, right above the reef. This is not good. But this is what's becoming the norm on too many North Shore beaches.