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HOOSER: Planning commission under siege

I received this bombshell of an email from an O‘ahu attorney and friend a few days ago:

“I’m not sure whether folks on Kaua’i realize that SB (Senate Bill) 3202 is deliberately crafted to take all authority to make decisions on subdivisions from the Kaua‘i Planning Commission and vest that authority with the planning director.

“Unlike other counties, the charter and ordinances on Kaua‘i give the planning commission authority to approve or disapprove subdivision applications. SB 3202 takes that authority from the planning commission and gives it to the planning director.

The change will also remove the right of folks to request a contested case hearing on these subdivisions.”

The email concluded with: “I hope people are aware of this change.”

The language in SB 3202 does not mention the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission, nor specifically state in language the average person can understand, the power transfer being proposed.

So no, the people are not aware.

Clearly, Kaua‘i Representative Luke Evslin, Chair of the Housing Committee and responsible for the review of SB 3202 and its companion HB 1630 is aware.

If they read the bill very closely and/or were informed by others as to how SB 3202 actually impacted their home county, then Kaua‘i Representatives Nadine Nakamura and Dee Morikawa, and Senate President Ron Kouchi, each who voted in support are also aware.

It’s clear Kaua‘i Planning Director, Ka‘aina Hull, who submitted written testimony saying he “strongly supports SB 3202,” is aware.

Presumably, Kaua‘i Planning Commission members were aware and approved the planning director’s testimony.

The insiders were all aware, but the rest of us have been kept in the dark.

SB 3202 proposes to take the power of subdivision approval away from the Kaua‘i County Planning Commission and give it to one single person, the Kaua‘i planning director.

SB 3202, if passed into law greatly reduces the voice of community in the process of land development. If a future subdivision development is proposed in your neighborhood or town, you will no longer be invited to a public hearing before the planning commission where the merits and various aspects of that subdivision will be discussed, and ultimately voted upon.

In addition, community members will lose their right to a “contested hearing” because there will be no hearing. The decision will be made by one person.

To be clear, as currently proposed SB 3202 applies only to lands within the existing “urban district” and does not apply to the subdivision of agricultural lands.

SB 3202 is essentially a “market approach” to solving the affordable housing crisis. It offers developers potential increased density, decreased infrastructure costs, and less community oversight resulting in faster permitting.

Thus, SB 3202 allows the developers to make more money faster and requires them to do nothing extra in return for these benefits.

SB 3202 does not require any development benefiting from its provisions to be affordable.

I know from personal and professional experience as a licensed real estate broker myself that demand for Hawai‘i real estate is insatiable. I also know that nothing is sold “below market” unless required by government incentives or disincentives.

If you believe that counting on the benevolent nature of real estate developers will result in increasing the supply of truly affordable housing, then I have a bridge to sell you.

We need to block/stop/kill SB 3202 and retain the public protections and the publics voice contained within the Kaua’i Planning Commission public review process.

Please take action. Share this information with friends and neighbors. More importantly, share your thoughts on this important issue with our Kaua’i legislative delegation: Rep. Evslin Rep. Nakamura Rep. Morikawa Senate President Ron Kouchi
Source: The Garden Island

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