Kauai Farm Worker Housing

SUBHEAD: Kaua'i Farm Worker Housing Ordinance...Bill Mark-up Meeting 7/15/09 9am Council Chambers
By Brad Parsons on 13 July 2009 in Aloha Analytics - http://alohaanalytics.blogspot.com/2009/07/kauai-farm-worker-housing-ordinancebill.html
County Council Planning Committee Meetings 9 a.m., Wednesday, Historic County Building, Council Chambers • Bill No. 2291, a bill for an ordinance relating to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. • Bill No. 2317, a bill for an ordinance relating to Small Wind Energy Conversion Systems. • Bill No. 2318, a bill for an ordinance relating to Farm Worker Housing. Here is a copy of the original bill No. 2318: http://www.kauaiinfo.org/Billl%20%202318%20Farmworker%20Housing.pdf
image above: WWOOFer accommodations at Kona Biodynamic Farm are shared in this two story "Coffee Shack".
Here was a good local article on the testimony hearing taken on this last week: Farm Workers Plead for Housing
Dozens of Kaua‘i farmers stuffed Council Chambers Wednesday afternoon, voicing their support for a proposed bill that would clear the way for farm worker housing and provide much-needed support for the agriculture industry. “I believe there is a strong consensus on this island that we need to grow more of our food — for our security, our health and our economy,” former County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said in written testimony. “We will not be able to do this without addressing the need for farm worker housing.” Bill No. 2813, if passed, would amend Section 8-1.5 of the Kaua‘i County Code by adding to the list of definitions entries for “farm,” “farm worker,” and “farm worker housing.” It would also amend Section 8-7.3 of the code to include farm worker housing as one of 15 uses and structures that require a use permit in agricultural districts. With the room packed with a standing-room-only crowd that could have made the fire chief cringe, farmer after farmer took to the microphone to ask the council to pass the legislation. Many said the current terms of the bill — which was amended by the Planning Department and Planning Commission — were too restrictive in its definitions and might not do enough for new or prospective farmers. Specifically, some farmers asked that the requirement that the term “farm worker” refer to an employee who works no less than 14 hours per week, rather than the 19-hour minimum currently in the proposed legislation. Also, one farmer complained that the definition “Farm worker housing means housing over and above the residential density allowed in the Agriculture District ... (on) a farm that has generated at least $35,000 of gross sales of agricultural products per year, for the preceding two consecutive years, for each farm worker housing unit on the lot” should be reduced to $12,000 or be removed altogether. “Be careful about putting money in the definition of a farm,” Moloa‘a farmer Scott Pomeroy said. “There’s no doubt that ag land needs to be protected ... it’s just that the business of farming ... has been to extract as much money or product out of an acre of land as possible. That’s led to severe depletion of the soil” and puts more and more pressure on the farmers. Another Moloa‘a farmer, Scott Neuman, said money could probably do better in a savings account than in a farm, but that Kaua‘i farmers put their hearts, souls and money “where their mouths are.” “The profit is minimal with back-breaking work,” he said. His wife, Linda, said she has lived illegally on their 10-acre farm for seven years because she has no choice. “Passing this bill shows the community your support for family farming,” she said. “We need help.” Planning Committee Chair and Council Vice Chair Jay Furfaro, who introduced Bill No. 2813 last month, said that accomplishing all the bill set out to do is “easier said than done.” He said removing a requirement for a use permit could create the potential for a lot of abuse, and added that some issues may have to be addressed through an upcoming update to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. In short, Farm Worker Housing legislation is not a cure-all. “I am looking forward to the Planning Committee meeting next week to work out some of the details,” Furfaro said in an interview during a caption break, with all but a few chairs full of yet-to-testify farmers. “Why can’t we feed ourselves? We have the Garden Island here, so where’s the garden?” asked Keone Kealoha of Malama Kaua‘i in his testimony. “This is something that we have the ability to manage ourselves. ... I think that together we can figure out what those details [should be].” Bill 2813 Timeline • June 3 — Introduced by Jay Furfaro, passed on first reading by a 7-0 vote • July 8 — Public hearing held, dozens of farmers attend to show support • July 15 — Planning Committee meeting to be held, amendments to be discussed Additional ideas for amendments presented on behalf of JoAnn Yukimura were: 1. The definition of "farm worker" should include farm owner or contract worker. 2. The requirement of $35,000 gross proceeds in two preceding years per farm worker unit does not fit the economic realities of farming various crops. Other Hawaii counties allow farmers to meet alternative criteria in lieu of the $35,000 [or less]. One alternative might be demonstrating that 75% [or less] of the farm's land is used for farming (including fallow land). 3. The required farm plan should not be approved by the Planning Dept. who do not necessarily have farming background. The farm plan should be approved by either the Soil & Water Conservation District Committee or by the Real Property Tax Div. Agriculture Inspector. Other good amendment ideas were mentioned at the July 8th Council meeting that will hopefully be brought forward to the best, most realistic ordinance bill possible on July 15th.
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