Friday, July 5, 2013

Musings: Abuse Chronicles 20

The sea is close at Swaying Palms, a “sleeps 14” vacation rental that sits on Kepuhi Point in Haena. So close that TVR ads liken it to “being on a yacht,” and waves rush under the house with enough force to move lounge chairs.

Our feet were always on the sand, and the water was only a few feet away. There is no view from any house like this one.

The sea is also close to Swaying Palms' cesspool, which was dug in 1958 for a 320-square-foot, two-room cottage. It now serves five bathrooms — each with a Jacuzzi tub — in a seven-bedroom TVR that is 10 times larger the original house.

Building permits on file at the county do not correlate with all that expansion, including a second story that was apparently added after 1995. Much of the work was done in the 1990s by Craig Maas, a builder associated with other North Shore houses that were similarly grown into TVRs without recorded permits.

A Jan. 15, 2010 comment in county records indicates the building division helpfully adjusted the actual construction costs on one 1998 permit downward from $141,000 to $112,900 — the amount needed to ensure the work qualified as an “unsubstantial improvement” not subject to flood requirements. Yet records still show the value of the permit issued remained at the original $141,000.

For a time, the house was illegally used as a multifamily TVR, renting out as many as four distinct units — Kapua, Moana, Wainanai and Kamakani, each with a kitchen. This was first documented in a 1992 appraisal and later reiterated in an Anini Aloha ad that was verified by the August 2009 FEMA audit of Kauai properties in the flood zone.

Planning inspector Bambi Emayo also found and photographed evidence of this misuse when he checked out the property earlier that year, after Krouse applied for a TVR certificate.

The use of the Single-Family Dwelling as a Multi-Family Dwelling are [sic] a violation of density,” Emayo wrote in an April 20, 2009 violation letter. “The existing Dwelling contains (3) three units.” 

Krouse was ordered to immediately cease and desist TVR and multi-family uses immediately and remove all overhead cabinetry and cooking appliances from the unpermitted kitchens.

In a May 7, 2009 letter, Krouse denied using the property as a multi-family rental, even though he acknowledged that each “suite bedroom” had a coffee pot and microwave. Attorney Jonathan Chun apparently filed an appeal on May 21, 2009, though no copy was included in the file.

Chun's appeal and Krouse's letter are acknowledged in a June 26, 2009 letter from then Planning Director Ian Costa, who said his office had decided to recommend the Planning Commission approve the certificate after all at its July 14, 2009 meeting.

This recommendation was questionable, due to both the zoning violations and the incomplete application. Though Krouse submitted copies of his general excise and transient accommodation tax licenses, the file included no proof that taxes were actually paid. 

Interestingly, a 2006 real estate listing  claimed the property earned net profits of $90,000 in 2005 alone. Krouse also submitted documentation showing just 21 days of rental history in 2008, not the 30 days required under the ordinance.

Although the Planning Commission was supposed to scrutinize all applications that were initially denied, it unanimously approved a TVR certificate for Swaying Palms. There is no record of any new information being provided to dispute Bambi's inspection report. Indeed, approval was granted with the caveat that it was not evidence of zoning compliance.

With his certificate  in hand, Krouse continued renting out the house, which is frequently occupied by 12 to 16 persons. Four-to-six rental cars are typically parked out front, and a beach with extremely dangerous waves and currents is now frequented by tourists with small children.

However, it appears the multi-family use was retained. A February 2011 real estate listing  described it as having four bathrooms and “Spacious living area includes a private lock off guest studio with its own laundry and kitchenette.”

After submitting his 2011 TVR renewal, Krouse received an Oct. 12, 2011 letter from planning inspector Vil Baliscan — sent with Planning Director Michael Dahilig's concurrence — that referenced the old violations. Krouse was again ordered to cease and desist operations, and told his renewal would be held until he came into compliance.

A month later, Krouse wrote back, saying the denial was a “complete surprise” because the violations were the same ones that had been raised in 2009 when the planning department later “reconsidered their error....and proceeded to issue the TVR permit.” Though the file shows receipts for his payments, there's no indication of whether renewals were actually granted for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011.

On March 6, 2012, Vil sent Krouse another letter, saying a November 2011 inspection indicated that the violations apparently had been rectified.

Yet a June 2011 on-line sales ad for the house, posted by Hawaii Life, seemed to indicate the continued potential for multi-family use:

The main house consists of a spacious living area with 5 bedrooms. Across the breezeway, there are two exterior suites that have private entrances for a total of 7 bedrooms.  TVR approved, sleeps 14 people.

The MLS played up the value of the TVR certificate and absence of shoreline setback:

Built back in the 60's, so home is located closer to the ocean than is allowed now! Several owners since then have remodeled and upgraded, making this a typical Hawaiiana beach house. FINANCIALS AVAILABLE. EXCELLENT INCOME. TVR APPROVED WITH HIGH INCOME.

In December 2012, Realtor Roberta Haas sold the house for $1.9 million to California-based Tenir LLC, whose principals are Krouse and his wife. 

And so another owner is being allowed to profit from first operating an illegal multi-family vacation rental and then receiving a TVR certificate that he never proved he was eligible to receive.

As a result, on any given day, a dozen or more unsuspecting visitors are staying in a house that has absolutely no shoreline setback on one of the island's most dangerous and dynamic coastlines,

But let's just pretend it will always be calm and sunny. And try not to think about all the shishi, doodoo and wastewater generated by 14-16 people using a 55-year-old tiny cesspool, just a stone's throw from the sea.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

So...the Planning Director has often stated that "our department will respond if there is a formal complaint". Does this blog entry qualify, or must someone print it and actually mail it to the Department to have it investigated as a non-legal TVR???

Anonymous said...

So,now we have a mini mansion using a sewerage system that was designed for maybe a toilet/bathroom, and a small kitchen doing service for a mini mansion for people that probably don't care about conservation.{my assumption}.How many more like this in the Wainiha/Ha'Ena District ? After following this expose,I bet you more than you care to think about. Good question is how many have been paid off, and for how long ? I started to really notice it about twenty years ago, but being a trusting soul figured all was above board, even though the density was disturbing. Now what ?

Anonymous said...

If you tried your best to spoof Kauai's government, you couldn't get close to how inconceivably 'spoofed-up' reality is. Incompetence, corruption, greed and moral degredation - I don't know if it's some of the above or all of the above. Is the council ready to take this on and restore sanity and integrity or are they another cog in the wheel of our spoofed-up banana republic? Altogether now, let's sing along with the mayor: "Aloha! (shut up or I'll demote you) Oh, Aloha! (hey, brah, shud up about dat overtime) Oh, Aloohhhaaa (wat now, no foget about dat stinkin drug treatment center and landfill) Oh, Aloha!!! (shut up, already. i know dey not qualified for da jobs but dey keep da mouts shut) Yep, reality out-spoofs the spoof.

Anonymous said...

The Council is afraid. They are not real leaders. Occasionally, someone leads, but as a body they're inept. Mel was a leader on the anti-GMO taro. Hooser is a leader on pesticides. Those two will occasionally stand truth to power. But otherwise, this council and the last council are more about trying not to make enemies by maintaining a do approach nothing and deferring everything.

Anonymous said...

5;42 i agree, its not leadership to let issues go unresolved for months/years on end, kick the can down the road bullspit, and leave it to the next admin/council to deal w/ it..... an informed electorate is lacking on this island as well as the state..the only way to starve the beast is to stop giving them your hard earned money ...also i encourage everyone to get their garden going cuz the shit will hit the fan when people are hungry and the supermarkets got no product....like after the hurricane .....grow food like most locals do and not depend on the corporate structure to dictate youre life...is there not enough ag land on the island to make us self sufficient ? i know how to fish and hunt, my garden is good and i share the extras, thats the local way. aloha Dean

Anonymous said...

To 5:56 - small wonder you wish to remain anonymous!

Joan Conrow said...

Sorry, had to delete 5:56 link to an adult film that reportedly had Swaying Palms in one of the scenes.

Anonymous said...

Nice Liability for the county.

Anonymous said...

County government is about roads, sewers, police, fire and the like. You think the County has the scientists to regulate GMO/pesticides? Not likely.

Anonymous said...

Disclosure, buffer zones and an EIS. What's so difficult about that? Only talking 5 companies. The disclosure and buffer zones are all public info. If the companies lie or cheat someone will turn them in. Don't you think a few of us will be watching :-)

Anonymous said...

The tvr owners lie and cheat and were turned in. Nothing has happened to them. You think the county will miraculously start enforcing on pesticides? Dream on.

Anonymous said...

The Wealthy on the North shore of Kauai are bringing in illegals to work for them. They want cheap undocumented labor. They are using Mexicans for slaves on the north shore. Cheap cash under the table.

Anonymous said...

Are there any vacation rentals on the N Shore that you approve of? or are you just picking them off one by one?
So if they get shut down what do you think will happen to them? Do you think they will be made available as affordable long term rentals for you and your friends? If that happens (not likely) it will take 14 people living there to be able to afford the rent and utilities and upkeep-but hey, no worries since it's not a TVR right?

Anonymous said...

July 7, 2013 at 9:17 PM

dumb ass - these RESIDENTIAL houses were never intended to house 14 + people and continuing an unsustainable use as a Vacation rental would continue to cause the problems such as septic system overflows to continue. These areas were never intended to support mass amounts of tourists and the environment will continue to suffer until these permits are revoked and their highest and best use (residential homes or complete removal from the hazardous area) are pau.

Anonymous said...

excess sewage, cars, water, all in what is supposed to be conservation. what a joke.

Anonymous said...

to 652pm this house is not in a conservation zone-the zone starts down by Tunnels beach-on the west side of Haena Place cul-de-sac and that area is under State DLNR jurisdiction not the County -

Anonymous said...

you're right it's "special management" bigger joke.

Anonymous said...

Haena sounds like a very dangerous place! Tsunami, floods, hurricanes and God knows what else. Perhaps all dwellings should be demolished and the bridges dismantled to prevent loss of life. Hanalei also could be a very dangerous place. It is, after all, a flood plain. Kapaa, Lihue, heck, the entire Hawaiian chain is dangerous! Get out now and save yourself! I will bravely stay behind and let you all know when it is safe to return ;)

Gina Lobaco said...

Unfortunately, few people realize that the lack of an island-wide municipal sewage system is perhaps having the largest impact on our reefs. Instead, blame is placed elsewhere on all kinds of pseudoscience.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the point is? I agree with many of your posts especially homeowners trying to make public beaches private. However, I am not a fan of big government. If someone buys a house they should be able to do with it what they want. As far as the septic situation, I agree and I know that the State is doing a vigorous job of making home owners comply with installing modern systems. What I do not understand is why you are on this crusade against vacation renting. What effect does it have on you? You don't really think that there will ever be affordable housing on the North Shore, do you?

Anonymous said...

So sad. These guys that run illegal TVRs are the very ones that are against the ag companies. I guess money does talk. Maybe someone should dig into the financials of everyone involved. It only takes one to go down. When that "one" goes down he/she will start ratting on everyone else because that's what rats do. So, who do we go to to get this ball rolling?