Lumpy, bumpy towers of cumulus, faces and figures lined up Mt. Rushmore-like, reaching toward stars, a waning moon, cloud sculptures that flush first orange, then fade to gray, then flame purple-pink as an explosion of scarlet sun overwhelms the east and touches the fluff floating atop Waialeale, turning it soft lavender.
Transient vacation rentals (TVRs) have overwhelmed the communities from Hanalei and Haena, according to a power point presentation that Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana (PONO) made to the Kauai County Council last week.
Some 55.1 percent of all TVRs approved through the county's nonconforming use certificates are located between Hanalei and Haena. That figure does not include all the illegal TVRs that further swell the numbers.
Or to put it another way, the smallest geographic area on Kauai has the largest percent of TVRs.
This photo vividly shows the concentration of TVRs on just one block in Wainiha, near the YMCA Camp, where 20 properties were investigated in the Abuse Chronicles series.
Some 65.2 percent of the North Shore TVRs are located in the Special Management Area. Yet none were required to obtain an SMA permit, which is intended to assess the cumulative impact of development on environmentally sensitive areas.
And make no mistake, these TVRs do have substantial impacts on infrastructure and resources. Using census data and TVR ads, PONO found that TVRs in the Wainiha-Haena area accommodate an average of 6.8 occupants per unit, compared to just 2.7 persons in a longterm residential unit. Some of these mini hotels house 12 to 14 guests, many of whom are sleeping in ground floor units in the tsunami and flood zone.
And just look at how many of the TVRs are operating with only cesspools in that same neighborhood! Surely all that untreated sewage must be having an adverse affect on the nearshore waters there.
The graphic also shows that nearly all of the TVRs in this neighborhood failed to prove they were eligible for the valuable life-of-the-property certificates, but they received them, anyway. Again, this does not even include the numerous illegal vacation rentals in the area.
This profuse proliferation of TVRs undermines the goals of the North Shore Planning Area, which call for preserving the area's natural beauty and special rural charm. It also violates the county General Plan, which states: permitting processes should consider the cumulative impacts that a large concentration of alternative visitor units can have on a residential neighborhood.
Though the Abuse Chronicles brought the problems to light, they shouldn't have come as any surprise to the county. Back in 2005, when the county was running its “TVR stakeholders” process and the Council was working on an ordinance, the planning department hired a consultant to conduct a TVR study.
That consultant made the following findings for the Wainiha to Haena area eight years ago:
Neighborhood impacts are significant; the community character has been altered; houses have been illegally converted to multi-family dwellings, and TVRs have disproportionately impacted the North Shore.
The consultant's recommendation?
Channel TVRs to areas set aside for resort uses.
Instead, the county actually cemented the intensive impacts into place through a flawed ordinance and its horribly botched implementation. In the process, residential neighborhoods were turned into defacto resorts.
The question now is, how can we reclaim the far North Shore from the county's serious screw up? Is the community, the special area that was supposed to be preserved, lost forever? Will the Council, Administration and planning department actually address this issue? Or must we wait until a tsunami sorts things out?