Friday, July 27, 2001

Advocates push
Kauai access bills

The proposals require landowners
to give the public access
to recreational areas

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Two public-access proposals received strong support yesterday at a Kauai County Council public hearing.

The proposals would require landowners and developers building in areas adjacent to recreational areas and on land containing cultural resources to provide public access to their properties.

Existing county ordinances say the county planning commission "may" impose such requirements.

The proposed wording would instead have the words "shall require."

The Kauai Planning Commission responded with what it described as compromised wording saying the commission "shall be required to consider" ordering public access.

Critics ridiculed the language, saying it is meaningless because it gives the commission no powers beyond discussing the issue.

"It reflects on the diligence of the county attorney, whom I assume would have reviewed the wording," said Ray Chuan, a frequent critic of county government on Kauai.

Jimmy Torrio, spokesman for the Anahola Homesteaders Association and a lifelong backpacker, urged the Council to make sure the wording applied to land adjacent to the mountains as well as property along beaches.

Cane haul roads that once provided easy access to the mountains have been gated and locked, first by the sugar plantations and then by new private owners, for the past two decades, he said.

Similarly, many reservoirs that once were popular recreation spots for sugar workers have been closed to the public by more recent owners, witnesses said.

The bills would make the county responsible for defending against any lawsuits by users of the roads and trails. Areas set aside to protect cultural resources would not be counted against limits on subdividing land.

Several witnesses cautioned that language in the proposals may be too broad. Terms such as "adequate access" are not defined, nor are phrases such as "public resources" and "recreational areas," which one witness noted could be applied to the entire island.

The proposals next go to a committee vote and then to the full Council.

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