Changes to Kutchan Town's Quasi-City Planning Area
On Tuesday, January 11th, we submitted the following petition to Kutchan Mayor Monji, with 653 people signed up. The petition was formally submitted by myself (Keith Rodgers) and long time Hirafu community leader Junko Watanabe. We only started gathering signatures on December 24th, and would like to thank everyone who quickly signed up and supported the effort.
In addition to the petition, we requested that Kutchan Town, Niseko Town, and the 5 resorts undertake a full capacity study of each resort. Rules should be written to help us stay within our capacity. The mayor said that Kutchan is exploring giving “a few” community meetings to get opinions on their current proposal. While this is important, it does not address the key points in our petition, and more action is needed.
Dear Mayor Monji,
Regarding the new Scenic Planning and Green Area Planning (changes to the Quasi-City Planning regulations) that Kutchan Town is planning for 2022, we present to you our comments.
We are all in favor of clear rules and sustainable development, and welcome your leadership on the issue. However, we are concerned that the process is being rushed, and feel that more advice is needed from professional resort&town planners, and input from all stakeholders (residents, businesses, property owners, etc) in the community. These rules will shape our town for the next 10 to 20 years, our kids will have to live with the results, so let's get it right.
Here are some of our concerns:
- All community stakeholders should have a chance to give input before the proposal is finalized. Discussions to date have not involved enough public discussion, which is not acceptable.
- Town planning should match “Niseko’s” status an internationally famous resort. Kutchan Town should have a full-time experienced town planner on staff, and any exterior consultants should be specialized in resort planning.
- The framework for deciding height limits/floor area ratio/green space, etc, should include public transportation, safety related to traffic volume and mountain crowdedness, infrastructure limits (water, sewer, roads, electricity, parking, snow management), and aesthetic design.
- There has been no capacity study for all of Kutchan. How many tourists + support staff can Kutchan Town support? The current number of Niseko Area beds already exceeds 23,000. Kutchan Town needs to support not just Kutchan guests, but also Niseko area visitors and support staff. The ideal capacity for Kutchan Town should be defined, and rules written to achieve that outcome (but not exceed it).
- There is no capacity study for the Niseko area resorts. For resort/town planning, it is necessary to understand how many people the mountain can support while maintaining a positive user experience.
- The Hirafu capacity of 18,000 people has been suggested by Kutchan Town, but is based solely on the Grand Hirafu lift capacity. The appropriate number should also be based on other criteria such as safety, access, infrastructure, and user enjoyment.
- There needs to be consideration for traffic, congestion, and parking. The Shinkansen and new Expressway will bring even more traffic. The additional cost of water and sewer pipes has been given by Kutchan Town as a reason for changing the regulations, but expanding the road width and adding parking would also be very expensive, and involve Hokkaido government (slow process).
- Can Kutchan Town support 15~20,000 people in Hanazono? Hanazono Village is the only area with no height restrictions. Restrictions should be consistent and fair between the Hirafu and Hanazono resort bases.
- Middle/Lower Hirafu – the Kutchan Town proposal includes an increase of the height restriction from 13m to 16m. A five story “pencil” building on a 50 tsubo lot is a potential result. We are strongly opposed to this outcome, and inclusion in the current plan shows the lack of consultation with the local community.
We ask you to once again deeply consider the new regulations, and hire an experienced town/resort planner to build on the efforts of Kutchan Town staff. If funds are not available to pay for an external resort planning consultant, the community would be willing to try and crowd fund to help cover the costs. Please let us know how we can help.
We look forward to working together to build a better Kutchan Town.
From the following concerned parties: