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HOOSER: A ‘teachable moment’

While it’s likely too late to impact it’s passage, Senate Bill 3202 represents an important “teachable moment” for those interested in the legislative process (or lack thereof).

Please grab a chair, a quiet corner somewhere, and read the below paragraphs taken from the exact language legislators are voting on (and the only language the public was provided with) – 10 or 15 minutes should do it.

The first key component says “each county shall adopt or amend ordinances defining reasonable standards that allow for the construction of at least two accessory dwelling units, or the reasonable equivalent, for residential use on all residentially zoned lots …defined as … a zoning lot in a county zoning district that is principally reserved for single-family and two-family detached dwellings … does not include a lot in a county zoning district that is intended for rural, low density residential development, and open space preservation.”

Translation,“Every county shall pass laws allowing at least 3 houses/units for residential use (not commercial or other use) to be built on almost every residential lot in the county.”

Further translated for property owners, “With the passage of SB3202, regardless of the size of your existing residentially zoned lot, you will be legally allowed to build, sell and/or rent three houses/units on your lot.

With the stroke of a legislative pen your personal financial balance sheet goes up as the value of your property will be increased instantly and substantially — and you don’t have to do diddly squat.

While the intent of SB3202 is to encourage people to use this windfall of increased residential density to build housing, there are no requirements to build anything within any specific timeframe, nor any requirement the housing be affordable. These units can be CPR’d and sold as individual separate homes or rented for top dollar at market rates.

If you’re a large developer and own 100 residential lots, you now get the benefit of building 300 houses, with no requirements for affordability nor additional rules prohibiting short-term vacation rentals.

Of course the county can and will require adequate parking, water, fire infrastructure and roadways must be adequate. Of course. (wink wink)

The purpose of SB3202 is to dramatically increase the inventory of homes and speed up the development process statewide.

Unfortunately because there are no provisions requiring affordability, the majority of homes will be sold or rented “at market” (driven by tourism, out-of-state investors, and wealthy retirees), and out of reach for most local residents.

In addition to the huge gift of increased density, SB3202 is also intended to dramatically speed development. On Kaua‘i, this translates to removing the Planning Commissions oversight, which also removes community input, and the right to “contested case hearings” and transferring approval authority to a single individual, the Kaua’i planning director.

Unfortunately this power transfer is hidden in legalese which no regular member of the public could ever understand.

“(g) Notwithstanding any other law…any administrative authority to accept, reject, and approve or deny any application for subdivision, consolidation, or resubdivision of a parcel of land that has been fully zoned for residential use within the state urban district … shall be vested with the director of the county agency responsible for land use.”

Notice this paragraph does not mention Kaua‘i County, and certainly doesn’t clearly state the power of subdivision approval in the urban district is being taken from the Kaua‘i Planning Commission and given to one single individual, the Kaua‘i planning director.

Whether you agree or disagree with the housing development strategy proposed by Kaua’i Rep. Luke Evslin (a staunch advocate of SB3202), Kaua’i residents deserve to know about major proposals directly impacting their community before the votes are cast.


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council. He presently writes on Hawai‘i Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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