Some pigs also have been visiting the county Planning Department, but they do not run away, because they're never scolded. Instead, they are welcomed, allowed to come in and correct their zoning violations, have their fines voided, and in at least two cases, given unwarranted rewards for compliance.
At yesterday's County Council meeting, Planning Director Michael Dahilig revealed that even though his department has authority to collect up to $10,000 per day for uncorrected violations, no fines have been collected at all, because everyone came into compliance, even those who were caught red-handed.
As The Garden Island reported:
[Councilman Mel] Rapozo compared this to showing up at a court date for a speeding violation and telling the judge “I stopped speeding,” to have the fine removed.
But what Dahilig didn't disclose was how in at least two cases, his department rewarded zoning violators with transient vacation rental (TVR) permits — even though neither house had a documented history of TVR use, as is required under county law.
Both houses in question are within the Wainiha flood zone, and both had illegally enclosed the downstairs. When the houses were sold, the new owners applied for TVR permits. Both permits were granted when the illegal enclosures were removed, even though neither had a prior history of vacation rental use. In one case, the previous owner had gotten a property tax exemption for occupying the house, so it obviously wasn't being rented. In the other, the new owner offered as verification a letter from North Shore Properties saying the place had been rented. That was it. No rental history, no proof of taxes paid, zip.
So not only are some people with zoning violations skipping substantial fines, they're reaping significant rewards because the county is using the carrot of a TVR permit as a way to get them to correct their illegal use.
Worse, the county is actually increasing the TVR inventory in this way, even though some Council members assured us that natural attrition would gradually whittle down the number of TVRs.
There's something really sketchy going on with zoning inspections, and the latitude that's given in bringing violations into compliance. The problems are not just within the Planning Department, but the Building Department, too. Let's hope the Council has the gumption to really check it out — especially before it pungles up more money to hire inspectors.