Monday, April 7, 2014

Musings: Coastal Connivings

The Kauai County Council is preparing to give coastal landowners a big gift — an exemption from shoreline rules and regulations.

Bill2461, which was inexplicably passed out of Committee and goes to the full Council on Wednesday, grants a waiver to some 671 coastal properties. The so-called “bright line” exemptions encompass most of the lands still undeveloped along the coast.

Just take a gander at these maps, which show you exactly how extensive these exemptions are. They pave the way for projects like Pierre Omidyar's Hanalei Ridge and other blufftop and cliffside developments. (The link will give you higher quality graphics.)

Under the proposed new law, coastal landowners can get an exemption from shoreline rules, including possibly even shoreline certifications, so long as they are 20 feet above sea level, out of the FEMA flood zone and adjacent to a rocky shoreline.

They will be allowed to build their houses just 40 feet from the shoreline, though if no certified shoreline is required, how will we know where that setback line truly begins? Will a shoreline be required, or even a setback, for that matter, because doesn't exempt mean just that — exempt? 

 And aren't some of those rocky shorelines adjacent to areas with the highest erosion rates, and subject to hazards of their own? Hazards like wind, mud slides, big surf pounding the coast. We've all chunks of cliff fall away, and the only reason we haven't seen houses also sliding down the pali is we've had very little bluffside development. But of course, folks want to get just as close to the edge as they can, and now the Council is prepared to let them.

Not surprisingly, a number of large landowners and high end Realtors are licking their lips at the prospect of building into cliffsides and atop bluffs.

The proposed law, as amended and manipulated by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura to please the developer crowd, does nothing to protect view planes and prevent houses from hanging on the edge of the bluff, as has occurred all along Kauapea, much to the detriment of that previously wild beach.

State law requires the county to develop regulations for governing structures, use and activities along the shoreline. But with this proposed ordinance, the county is abrogating its mandate and essentially washing its hands and saying “anything goes” along much of the remaining coastline. Is that even legal?

The new law also has deleted the regulation of “activities,” which means they're creating this big gray zone over how weddings, surf schools, vendors, etc. will be handled in the setback. The Council is saying the special management areas would still apply, but anything under $500,000 is exempt, as well as single family residences. So how meaningful is that?

The bill states as its rationale the need to give the planning director greater flexibility, though he has always had the ability to waive shoreline certifications, as we've seen happen repeatedly in the Wainiha-Haena vacation rental zone, to the benefit of landowners. But this approach is more akin to a wholesale opting out than mere flexibility.

Kauai has always prided itself as having one of the strongest shoreline bills in the state, but if it accepts these amendments, the Council will be severely weakening our bill. For years coastal preservationists have been pushing the county to move beyond the minimum 40-foot setback, but with these amendments, that will become the default setback for any parcel 20 feet above a rocky coastline.

Though this bill has been in the works for nearly three years, the Council's planning committee rushed it through, making substantial amendments in session, but never taking the time to actually read the fully amended bill that they were approving. JoAnn is determined to give developers what they want, and Ross Kagawa and Mason Chock seem befuddled by the bill's complexities, which serve to mask its inadequacies.

It's time for a time out. The Council needs to send this bill back to committee — and even the planning commission, since it has changed so much since that panel approved it — to consider more carefully the ramifications of the last-minute amendments that were made.

It seems the Council is putting its trust into Sea Grant, but those guys aren't allowed to give advice, so it's not up to them to point out the bill's flaws. Still, the maps Sea Grant prepared speak volumes.

So truly, take a look and decide. Are you OK with exempting from shoreline rules all the coastal areas marked with a bright red-pink line? If not, you'd best get your comments into the County Council ASAP, because this bill is going before them on Wednesday and Council Chair Jay Furfaro has said he doesn't want a lot of changes made at full Council.


Anonymous said...

The proposed law, as amended and manipulated by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura to please the developer crowd, does nothing to protect view planes and prevent houses from hanging on the edge of the bluff, as has occurred all along Kauapea, much to the detriment of that previously wild beach.

Yet ANOTHER reason to not re-elect Yukimura!

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Joan. Setbacks are meant to protect property from shoreline hazards, not for visual purposes. It seems you're trying to create some sort of "right" that doesn't exist. It smacks of petty envy.

Anonymous said...

Hawaii Revised Statutes HRS 205A Locate new structures inland from the shoreline setback…, and
(3) (A) Protect, preserve and, where desirable, restore or improve the quality of coastal scenic and open space resources

§205A-2 Coastal zone management program; objectives and policies. (a) The objectives and policies in this section shall apply to all parts of this chapter.
(b) Objectives.
(3) Scenic and open space resources;
(A) Protect, preserve, and, where desirable, restore or improve the quality of coastal scenic and open space resources.
(4) Coastal ecosystems;

(6) Coastal hazards;
(A) Reduce hazard to life and property from tsunami, storm waves, stream flooding, erosion, subsidence, and pollution.
(3) Scenic and open space resources;
(B) Ensure that new developments are compatible with their visual environment by designing and locating such developments to minimize the alteration of natural landforms and existing public views to and along the shoreline;
(C) Preserve, maintain, and, where desirable, improve and restore shoreline open space and scenic resources; and
(D) Encourage those developments that are not coastal dependent to locate in inland areas;
(6) Coastal hazards;
(B) Control development in areas subject to storm wave, tsunami, flood, erosion, hurricane, wind, subsidence, and point and nonpoint source pollution hazards;
(7) Managing development;
§205A-4 Implementation of objectives, policies, and guidelines. (a) In implementing the objectives of the coastal zone management program, the agencies shall give full consideration to ecological, cultural, historic, esthetic, recreational, scenic, and open space values, and coastal hazards, as well as to needs for economic development.
(A) (b) The objectives and policies of this chapter and any guidelines enacted by the legislature shall be binding upon actions within the coastal zone management area by all agencies, within the scope of their authority. [L 1977, c 188, pt of §3; am L 1979, c 200, §3; am L 1989, c 356, §6]
§205A-46 Variances. (c) No variance shall be granted unless appropriate conditions are imposed:
(1) To maintain safe lateral access to and along the shoreline or adequately compensate for its loss;
(2) To minimize risk of adverse impacts on beach processes;
(3) To minimize risk of structures failing and becoming loose rocks or rubble on public property; and
(4) To minimize adverse impacts on public views to, from, and along the shoreline. [L 1986, c 258, pt of §1; am L 1989, c 356, §14; am L 1993, c 258, §6]

Anonymous said...

Guess you have more facts than envy , as usual.

Anonymous said...

Lucky the Legislature recognizes these "rights" your reader would rather forget.
§205A-21 Findings and purposes. The legislature finds and declares that it is the state policy to preserve, protect, and where possible, to restore the natural resources of the coastal zone of Hawaii. [L 1975, c 176, pt of §1; am L 1977, c 188, §5]

Anonymous said...

People with the most money and power have the most "rights" wide.

That's what its all about.

Unfortunately.....for the rest of us.

Zero Seven

Anonymous said...

When the proposed ordinance came over from planning commission, the additions to the applicability section they passed included
(2) [a licensed surveyor confirms the proposed structure and/or landscaping is outside the coastal erosion hazard zone by confirming the structure and/or landscaping will be located at a distance of no less than one hundred (100) feet plus one hundred (100) times the annual coastal erosion rate;
the changed version now before the council deletes this and instead says if you are 20 feet above sea level and out of the flood zone, no regulations apply.
What is up with weakening this so much?

Anonymous said...

Kauai is about to face the same problems that Huntington Beach is currently facing. Sad.

Anonymous said...

That bill is total bs, I'm sorry but it really shows the true nature of that specific politician. Developers must be lining her pockets. Unbelievable and pathetic.