Here we are at 13 – lucky 13, it turns out, for the owners of Hale Hoku. They managed to score a vacation rental certificate in 2011 even though the property had zoning violations. In fact, they were essentially the same violations — creating a ground floor apartment in the flood zone — that had prompted the Kauai County planning department to deny the TVR application in 2009.
In his April 28, 2009, denial letter, county planning inspector Bambi Emayo directed Hale Hoku owner Jon Evans to “cease and desist all vacation rental activities immediately.” Evans was also told to immediately stop using the house as a prohibited multi-family dwelling and remove cabinets, cooking appliances and the gas and electrical supply from the downstairs units. Any unpermitted alterations and additions “shall be demolished and removed.”
Yet even though all activities did not cease, and a 2011 inspection found the downstairs living unit intact, deputy planning director Dee Crowell still issued Hale Hoku a TVR certificate on April 18, 2011. In his approval letter, Crowell wrote (emphasis in original):
There are other violations on the property or structure not necessarily connected to the TVR use. The remedy of any violation(s) must be completed prior to any consideration for renewal of this certificate.
With the letter was included a zoning compliance notice, also dated April 18, 2011, in which inspector Vill Balliscan describes the presence of an unpermitted living room, bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor of the house. The owner was again directed to cease and desist use of the downstairs unit and submit plans and permit applications for the unauthorized renovation.
Realtor Jane Abramo of Na Pali Properties, acting as the owner's property manager, sent a fax to Vill on May 23, 2011, promising “a full response” to his notice “within the next 10 days to two weeks.” Yet county records show no response, no permit applications, no remediation, no enforcement and no renewal applications.
The property, however, continues to operate as a vacation rental, with the Na Pali Properties website showing bookings through September.
The house does not have a long history as a vacation rental. In fact, the original owner, Maxine Hanan, disliked TVRs, and felt they were ruining the neighborhood. But she died in July 2006, and in March 2007 her house was sold to Exchange Accommodators Inc. for $1.775 million. Evans and Susan Bouchard took ownership on Sept. 18, 2007.
On Oct. 15, 2008, Evans submitted an application for a TVR certificate, in which he states his TVR use began on Dec. 11, 1998 — well before he owned it, and while Mrs. Hanan was still occupying the house. His TAT license, meanwhile, showed the start date as Jan. 1, 2004. As proof of Hale Hoku's prior TVR use, Abramo provided records indicating it had been rented for 12 days in 2007 and 21 days in 2008. The file did not include any evidence that either general excise or transient accommodation taxes had been paid.
As noted earlier, Bambi denied the application on April 28, 2009. On May 14, 2009, Evans and Bouchard sent Bambi a letter claiming the house had never been rented by them as a multifamily unit, and stating their intent to remove the cabinets and appliances in the downstairs kitchen.
The downstairs enclosure in the flood zone had also prompted concerns by FEMA. On May 7, 2010, the county advised FEMA that the TVR application had been denied.
In 2010, the County Council revised the TVR ordinance, and on Oct. 13, 2010, Evans submitted another application. This time he states the TVR use began on Jan. 1, 2004 — again, before he bought it, and while Mrs. Hanan was still occupying the house. Though the house was constructed as three-bedrooms and 1.5-baths, he describes it as three bedrooms and three baths. And despite the unpermitted downstairs additions and additional bathrooms, Evans claims in his sworn affidavit that no unpermitted expansions or improvements had been made. Furthermore, the files did not include any evidence that GE and TAT taxes had been paid, and the application included just three reservation records totalling 23 nights in 2007 — less than the 30 days of occupancy required.
On Feb. 9, 2011, Vill inspected the property and found the downstairs was still functioning as a living unit.
Yet on April 18, 2011, Crowell — a former planning director who was brought back in as deputy under new Planning Director Mike Dahilig — inexplicably issued a TVR certificate for Hale Hoku.
It also appears, from a video uploaded to YouTube on Dec. 6, 2011, that the property has another violation: a “workshop” that is a fully furnished living unit with washer-dryer, fridge, microwave and toaster oven. The video description states: "Workshop that is located on the 15,000 sf Hale Hoku property in Haena."
Another video of the main Hale Hoku house speaks of “a separate workshop building to explore hobbies or simply take a much needed siesta!”
It seems it might be time for the planning department to make yet another visit to Hale Hoku — and issue yet another warning that the owners can ignore.