Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Musings: Developer Friendly

The Kauai County Council's planning committee will resume hammering and polishing the shoreline setback bill today — which means they still have a chance to transform it from a developers' bill into one that serves the public.

Two big questions remain unanswered.

First, why is the Council making it easier to build along rocky coastlines, if not to give developers an unearned prize?

Especially when it remains unclear just how much of the coastline, particularly seabird habitat, will be impacted. Or how that exemption will play out with actual buildings on the ground.

Second, shouldn't all lots that abut the shoreline follow the same set of regulations? Particularly in this era of increasing coastal hazards due to erosion and climate change.

The primary sticking point is Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura's so-called “bright line" exemption, which excuses landowners from seeking a shoreline determination on land that's 30 feet above sea level and adjacent to a rocky shoreline.

As you can see from this graphic, much of the coastline potentially could qualify for this exemption:
Sam Lemmo, director of the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, expressed concern about the exemption in a Nov. 3 letter to the Council (emphasis added):

Overall, it is unclear how a structure would be cited on a property if the application meets criteria in (1) and (2). This may not provide safe setback for other serious hazards such as failure of rocky bluffs.

Sam isn't the only one voicing objections. The Council received 49 pieces of testimony in opposition to some aspect of the bill, primarily the "bright line" exemption. Just three were submitted in support. They came from the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, the Westin and the Land Use Research Foundation, a developer advocacy group.

The Chamber wrote, in endorsing the “bright line” exemption:

The Shoreline Setback Ordinance should only be used for its intended purpose, which is to protect life, property and coastal resources from coastal hazards. It should not be misused for the purpose of creating buffers along the shoreline to establish recreational, access, view plane and aesthetic setbacks. Matters relating to view planes should instead be addressed by the SMA Permit process or by the application of the provisions in the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance relating to the establishment of scenic corridors.

But from Sam's letter, it's clear his agency is indeed concerned the exemption won't adequately protect life, property and resources from coastal hazards.

The circumstances that drove the original shoreline setback bill are no less relevant today than they were in 1971:

Growing population and expanding population have brought about numerous cases of encroachment of structures upon the shoreline. Many of these structures have disturbed the natural shorelines processes and caused erosion of the shoreline. Concrete masses along the shoreline are contrary to the policy for the preservation of the natural shoreline and the open space.

So why do anything to weaken that bill, when the only thing that's changed is it's more hazardous than ever to develop along the coast?

Which leads to another question: Why delete “activities” from the bill? Shouldn't activities within the shoreline setback area be subject to regulations under the Coastal Zone Management law? We've seen time and again that people are always trying to push the envelope. We need to ensure that mechanisms exist for dealing with whatever sketchy stuff folks dream up.

This isn't the best time to act on such an important bill, what with two Councilmen getting the boot and two others celebrating big wins. But it seems the Council is bound and determined to move this bill out of committee today, so it can be approved by the full Council next week.

Which means that now, today, is the time to remove that “bright line” exemption entirely. There's absolutely no justification for that arbitrary exemption other than to please developers. And they really don't need any special treatment, especially when it comes at the public's expense.


Anonymous said...

Why on earth would the council even be considering an exemption to the shoreline setback ordinance for some owners?
Bad idea, hope the council is smart enough to reject the exemption.

Anonymous said...

Setbacks set by the County should be only for safety. The feds and state will come with their environmental fiascos later.
Most of the shoreline is cliffs, let 'em build. Hooser, Chock and JoAnn don't want no farmin' on this mostly Ag zoned lands, anyway.
I agree with this triage of No Ag council members. Stop Big Ag and let the Big Land owners develop. They could even do long term leases to keep the lands in their corporate families.
Beautiful, enormous hundreds of Ag Units can be built all over the cliffs. Agriculture will be a component. Of course, only organic products of banana, rambutan, kale and a cute little Goat dairy will be part of the Homeowners Association expenses. The cliff top Homes will only be a seen by people on boat cruises, anyway. The "farm' will satisfy Hooser and JoAnn's anti-Big land anti-Ag infatuation. Big Ag will be gone, the goats will be fine and all lived happily forever and ever.

Anonymous said...

JoAnn what are you thinking? Here is another fine example of why I no longer support you.

Anonymous said...

Testimony from north shore 2491ers shouldn't be given much weight. What do they know?

Anonymous said...

Golf courses need to be back from the rocky edge. And there should be a ban on fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides from a rocky shore. I see no problem with water and plants, but the rest impacts reef, opihi, pipi, pupu etc. plants need to encouraged. Napaka, ilima kaha Kai, hala, etc should be planted.

Anonymous said...

For the first time in my voting life I did NOT vote for Joanne. She created the whole shoreline thing, and then sets about making exemptions, that will thrill the Californians, who evidently think that this is Malibu Beach or something, and we can have million dollar homes on a "Rocky shoreline!". I personally have had it up to here with Joanne manipulating every piece of legislation, amending it to death,k and exempting all kinds of situations for no apparent reason.

Her legislation makes no sense. It was her fault that 2491 was weakened with the fatal line flaw of adding in her stupid "no crop buffer zones!", for FFFFS!!!


Think we all need to "love bomb" the next council meeting, holy hell!!

I cannot understand her wishy washy, flip flopping all over the place like this!!

I will never vote for her again. let us hope that her "sabbatical" next term will last a long time, at least on the council level. Enough is enough!!

That self serving blatant look at me and what I have done letter was an embarrassment! What ever happened to the humble Joanne we all knew and loved, the champion of the people, protector of the environment! Shoreline setbacks were her thing! She practically wrote the book on it! Now she is folding, spinning, and mutilating it to death.

Watch. The shore line setback will be totally weakened, never hold up in court and be declared illegal, because Joann is gonna exempt and addendum it to death!


Whew I feel better now!

Anonymous said...

It would be easier to say, "all sandy beach shorelines have no exemptions" and all else is fair game. Double ARGH !!!

Anonymous said...

The "Best and the Brightest are not found running our local government.
Grin and Bare it. Get over it it.
The Elections are over....and its business as usual. Have a beer and relax. Watch the circus.

Its not what you know but who you know and are related to you the most financial support for your election.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

She doesn't care what we think.

Anonymous said...

But hopefully she does care about the coastlines of Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Dyeing to hear what happened? Passed? Exemption removed?