Bits of cloud drifted lazily like smoke off Nounou ridge when Koko and I set out this morning on a walk delayed by rain well past sunrise. Not that the sun was anywhere in sight, but I knew by the brightness of the sky that it was up there somewhere. I collected an armful of oranges that had fallen from a tree whose bounty seems to be ignored by everyone but me, and felt a secondary rain as drops fell from its drenched branches.
Birds sang as they bathed in the small streams that had formed between the pavement and the strips of grass that line it along both sides of the road. What a concept, to view the rain as an opportunity, rather than a nuisance. I’ve grown weary of hearing people complain about this winter’s chilly, wet weather. Can’t we be grateful that the Earth is still functioning and it’s getting what it needs?
Do we need some 519 transient vacation rentals on Kauai? That’s the number of applications received by the county from folks seeking a special use permit to keep operating. Now that’s not all the TVRs on the island, mind you, just the ones that have applied for the permit.
You can go to that link, if you’re so inclined, and check out just who is applying. While many are owned by real people, some of them with multiple rentals, a sizable number are owned by entities like Daystar Invest Corp., Hanalei Buddies LLC, Aliomanu Sand Castles LLC and Waiwai Nui Haena LLC. And we’re supposed to believe these rentals are just the way that ordinary folks make their mortgage?
Equally interesting is the zoning for these TVRs. We’ve got some in the conservation district, where the state, not the county has jurisdiction, some in the open district and some in the ag district, where they are not allowed either by state law or the most recent county ordinance.
And it seems that some of those conservation land applicants previously argued they weren’t doing vacation rentals when the state moved to crack down on that unpermitted use. Now they’re saying they are, so they can get grandfathered in with the county. Sounds like they’re admitting guilt, but is the state checking out applications submitted to the county?
While no part of the island is immune from the influx of vacation rentals, a quick perusal shows a very large number in Haena, Wainiha and Hanalei. Although multi-family dwellings are not allowed in Haena-Wainiha, some people are asking for multi permits. Will the county grant them?
The situation prompted one North Shore resident who is alarmed by the proliferation of vacation rentals in that region's rural residential neighborhoods to exclaim: “We’re pau, we’re totally screwed. If you look at Hanalei, almost the whole town is taken over.”
A group called PONO, Protect Our Neighborhood `Ohana, has formed to challenge some of these applications, especially those in the Special Management Area, where the first single family house built is exempt from the SMA process, but businesses are not.
“They said they were building a house, but they were building a business,” the resident said. “They’re fricking liars.”
Will the county go along with the sham, or look at the cumulative impact of allowing TVRs in the SMA? And as the county slowly processes these permit applications, the TVRs will keep on operating.
One thing’s for sure, it’s a big mess that will likely end up in litigation.
This is what happens when the county just goes along and goes along and lets a situation get totally out of hand before it deals with it. By then, everyone is claiming they have vested rights, even though they didn’t have the right to do what they were doing in the first place.
Unfortunately, all this is coming to a head at a time when the economy is down, a situation that so many times in the past has prompted the county to take an anything goes so long as it brings in some money attitude.
It doesn’t seem to matter what's lost in the process.