Monday, November 1, 2010

Musings: A Will and A Way

A dwindling sliver of moon hung white-gold in a blue-gray patterned sky when Koko and I went out walking on this still, quiet morning. A few stars twinkled, then disappeared, as the birds began heralding the shift from night to dawn.

In the east, thick black clouds were gathering, preparing to journey mauka, and I watched them slowly draw nearer as we walked. But they delivered only a few light sprinkles, right about the time I passed one of the vacation rentals on my street.

From a report in the Star-Advertiser today, it appears that Oahu has its own problems with illegal vacation rentals — and all the associated socio-economic woes:

North Shore [Oahu] Neighborhood Board member Kathleen Pahinui said in addition to the noise from tourists and the lack of rentals for residents, illegal vacation houses artificially raise taxes for homeowners.

"They don't care about the property taxes because in one week of rentals, they've got it covered," Pahinui said. "I just think it's wrong that the city has not enforced the zoning rules. The neighborhoods are no longer neighborhoods. ...

"They're basically turning it into a mini-resort area.”

[Crystal] Young, who lived in her youth along Sunset Beach, said she has seen the "domino effect" of illegal vacation rentals pushing working people into poorer areas and forcing others into the streets.

Gee, that all sounds so familiar. Except on Oahu, they’re talking about building an inn at Haleiwa to ease the demand for vacation rentals. Uh huh, right. I’m surprised nobody tried that on Kauai, where much hay has been made about how there’s been no new resort development, even as our coastlines and ag lands were turned into defacto resorts through the creation of vacation rentals, many of them decidedly upscale.

But Maui — the place we’re always saying we don’t want to become — chose to deal with its problem through the novel concept of, gasp, enforcement:

Aware of the growing number of illegal rentals intruding into residential and agricultural areas, the county Planning Department began aggressively enforcing zoning laws in early 2007 and shut down a number of operators.

Deputy Planning Director Ann Cua said the department gave illegal operators a reasonable time to close.

Later, in January 2009, in an attempt to bring vacation rentals into compliance, the Maui Council passed an ordinance allowing a limited number of bed-and-breakfasts to operate in various areas.

Since then some 33 rentals have received permits, including coastal residences in Paia and Kuau.

My, that’s quite a contrast from the hundreds legalized on Kauai. And doesn’t it sound like a much more fair process than letting in everyone who previously ignored the law, while shutting the door on those who didn’t?

There’s more:

[Maui] county defines a bed-and-breakfast as a dwelling occupied by guests for fewer than 180 days on a property with no more than two detached dwellings. The ordinance requires the owner to live on the property and allows for no more than six bedrooms for short-term rentals.

An off-street parking space is required for each guest bedroom in addition to the owner's dwelling. A homeowner seeking a bed-and-breakfast permit is required to post a sign giving residents notice of the application.

But the permit requires approval from the Planning Commission - and possibly the Council - if the application is protested by more than 30 percent of residents within 500 feet. Approval also is needed if there already is a B&B within 500 feet.

Can you imagine how different things would be at Anini, Hanalei, Haena, Wainiha, Kilauea and Kekaha if our own Council had adopted such stringent rules? Instead, they just bent over and let the rich speculators do pretty much whatevah.

That’s why we don’t have a provision like this in our law:

The [Maui] ordinance prevents the bed-and-breakfast homes from being held by firms, partnerships or companies, and the permits are not transferable.

That right there would have eliminated many of our problems, because as I’ve pointed out numerous times in this blog, the most luxurious and intrusive vacation rentals on this island are owned by investment consortiums and corporations. They know these properties are not “homes,” but mini resorts that generate a shit load of money.

On Maui, owners who don’t occupy their properties must apply for a conditional use permit to operate them as vacation rentals. According to the article, only about a dozen have been processed.

As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And it appears that on Kauai, it was the will of our Council to give the speculators and scofflaws their way.


Anonymous said...

Joan - "it was the will of our Council to give the speculators and scofflaws their way."

.......and yet most of these "dedicated" individuals (dedicate to their own self interests, the interests of scofflaws, and speculators as Joan identifies as their intent) will be reelected!

Obviously the majority of citizens are incapable of higher order thoughts.

Anonymous said...

There is a key difference between a B&B and a TVR, and it seems the two are being a little confused.

As you note, a B&B is where the owners live there and the guests stay in a bedroom or a guest house. If the owners don't live there its a TVR.

Hard to legally shut down B&B's without shutting down all sorts of "roommates" situations.

Anonymous said...

the difference with Maui county MIGHT be that they have 15 inspectors, while that number represents the majority of the entire planning department on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Maui gets better legal advice from its corp council. At council there is both a corporation council for the council and the administration has its attorneys . All bills are signed off at the time of introduction , "approved as to form and legality" ... in other words, the bills get their legal review before they waste time of the public and the council , there is accountability from the county attorney.We need to have 2 attorneys, so the CA is not conflicted representing the planning commission, dept, the administration and the council.
Foundammental change is needed for transparancy and accountability and good governance.
We can only hope the next council has more sense.

Anonymous said...

What's to prevent Kauai frm enforcing with the fines actually going to pay for the inspectors? Or the application fees they charge cover real time enforcement. When ord #864 first passed, the council funded new positions for inspectors at planning. But planning did not hire new inspectors, they hired planning dept employees, and kept it in house,

Anonymous said...

"the difference with Maui county MIGHT be that they have 15 inspectors, while that number represents the majority of the entire planning department on Kauai."

Yes, but they also have a lot more units to inspect.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but they also have a lot more units to inspect.

November 1, 2010 12:02 PM

actually, not really...roughly twice the number

Anonymous said...

Kauai is the "Dumb" Island....Look at the people we have running the show....knuckleheads.

Anonymous said...

dumb and corrupt

Anonymous said...

Are you listening Tim, Jay, Dickie, Daryl and Lani. Don't have to reinvent the wheel...just look to Maui. Right on Mayor Tavares for following up w/ enforcement. Our Council and County are spineless and/or looking out for their self interests. That tvr vote was a deal breaker for me. I will give Kaipo another chance for that vote alone. He and Derek are the only incumbents I'm voting for.

Anonymous said...

"Right on Mayor Tavares"

so you think that the Mayor is responsible for hiring? Not unless it is an appointed position.


Anonymous said...

budgets are submitted by the department and approved by Mayor then sent to council sent back and signed.

Personnel Services, through an application, hires people. Then HGEA protects them.

Anonymous said...

You go Joan! You are right on again!