Monday, November 30, 2015

Musings: Home Free

While The Garden Island is busy pimping for Playboy, it's continuing to ignore some big news: the next wave of vacation rentals.

Yeah, Kauai County is calling them homestays.  But in practice, the bill that Councilman Mason Chock will introduce on Wednesday is just like the TVR law, in that allows a whole new batch of visitor accommodations to legally proliferate in the residential district.

Gone is the initial limit of 10 homestay applications per year, proposed so Planning could avoid the mess it made implementing the TVR law, when it rubber-stamped flawed and even fraudulent applications, allowing owners who did not actually qualify to obtain — and retain — the lucrative lifetime permits.

Now there's no limit on how many homestay operators can seek permits, and no limit on how many can be approved. The only restriction is they can't be operated in the agriculture or open districts.

There is no attempt whatsoever to quantify the overall visitor impact on a residential neighborhood, or to prevent the expansion of visitor accommodations in rural areas like Wainiha and Haena.

Folks can rent up to five bedrooms — a mini-hotel — and allow people to stay in a guest house. So even though the owner has to actually live on the property, the "homestay" guest doesn't have to actually stay in the home.

Of course, there's no mechanism to actually ensure that owners are on-site during the stay. All they have to do is show they're getting the homeowner exemption when they apply and renew.

To their small credit, the Planning Department and Commission have decreed that homestays must be on a legit septic system, not cesspools. Many TVRs, including large, oceanfront properties, operate on antiquated cesspools. As Planning Director Mike Dahilig told the Planning Commission:

If you look at someplace like Hanalei Bay, and the amount of wastewater issues that they are having with their water contamination, and that place is virtually 70, 80, possibly 90% transient vacation rental, non-conforming use certificate holders. If that position had been required of them, there’s a strong possibility they would not have the pollution issues that they are having right now in the bay. So the Department does look at that with the TVR ordinance as having been a missed opportunity, and there is no reason that we should possibly. . .because it is incongruous with the TVR ordinance, to say we shouldn’t have it imposed upon the Homestay operations.

So how about they go back and amend the TVR law to impose that requirement and help clean up the Bay?

Homestay permits, like TVR certificates, will run with the property. They'll be renewed without question or scrutiny, so long as folks send in a $750 annual renewal fee and proof of owner-occupancy and general excise and transient accommodation licenses. They do not have to prove they're actually paying the taxes.

And since the homestay bill, like the TVR bill, has no inspection process, the county will have no clear idea what sort of accommodations are being offered. How, then, can it possibly reassure us that this provision will be carried out?

A Use Permit may be granted only if the Planning Commission finds that the establishment, maintenance, or operation of the construction, development, activity, or use in particular case is a compatible use and is not detrimental to health, safety, peace, morals, comfort, and general welfare of persons residing or working the neighborhood of the proposed use, or detrimental or injurious to property and improvements in the neighborhood or to the general welfare of the community, and will not cause any substantial harmful environmental consequences.

If it doesn't inspect, how will the county know if bedrooms are being rented in the ground floor of a flood zone? If kitchens have been illegally installed? If lockout doors have created an illegal multifamily dwelling unit?

Because all of these things happened — and are still happening — under the TVR law. But the county apparently either never learned, or wants to keep its head in the sand, which is why it's repeating so many of the same mistakes when it comes to permitting homestays.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

The version of home stay ordinance planning sent over is a disgrace, and another free for all. Why have any residential areas on Kauai when the resort business is booming ? Why not just make residents live in garages or a tent on agriculture land, or in jail? The Visitor Destination Areas were established to prevent all this nonsense , but planning sees no need to follow that. Permits for life are a joke, Ian Jung was always opining for his next job with Uncle Max and Jonathan. Other counties do not allow these types of permits to be transferred, and the applicant must agree to that before being given this special new right. The proposal before council is anything but comprehensive. It is weird they have taken no lessons from the TVR fiasco. And the septic system, only has to have been approved for the residential use, not the new additional use of running a hotel, and thus still may not achieve protection . It is a poorly written bill, and sailed though the Planning Commission without any changes or work by the commission. The only diligent commissioner was the chair, Angela, who voted against it, as an attorney, she had the good sense to question the permit for life , but the other commissioners were fine to send it to council for them to do the work. Let's hope this council is up to the task.

Anonymous said...

Such a shame.... it wont matter, they do not even enforce the BnBs on AG land.... i.e. Kauai retreat center in Waipake is on AG land. So how are they going to enforce anything else?

So depressing.

I am surprised that the big hotels are not up in arms over this (not that I feel sorry for them).

Anonymous said...

I think the septic issue makes sense near the ocean or within 75 feet or so of a stream. Sandy soil is little barrier to contamination.
As for the ten limit, it is so unconstitutional as to be ridiculous.
Under any circumstances the septic system or cesspool, other than the most ancient, is already compatible with the number of bedrooms and baths. That has been the rule for a long time.

Joan Conrow said...

12:32. That may be the rule, but as I pointed out in the Abuse Chronicles and other posts, a number of oceanfront TVRs were enlarged well beyond the cesspool capacity approved decades ago for much smaller houses.

Anonymous said...

"They'll be renewed without question or scrutiny, so long as folks send in a $750 annual renewal fee and proof of owner-occupancy and general excise and transient accommodation licenses. They do not have to prove they're actually paying the taxes."

This is wonderful news! Now local people can compete with the major hotels and guest can enjoy some real aloha spirit.

Anonymous said...

I guess i should have said the RESTRICTION of cesspools near the ocean makes sense. Sandy soils are poor insulators and the tide an excellent convection source of same.

Anonymous said...

Yes, because so many local folks have lots of extra rooms to rent out and maintain their homes to look like air bnb hipster hostels for the well-heeled who eschew the resorts to indulge their ecotourism faux fantasies.

Anonymous said...

This Do Nothing Sellout council members are a complete JOKE.

The sandbox needs to be cleaned out.

Anonymous said...

This could be a good time to charge taxes like 10% more on TVR's and "Homestays". Keep our real property taxes the same and just up the taxes on these guys.

Anonymous said...

Joan - If a property owner adds bedrooms, etc. to an existing house, doesn't the owner need a permit to do that? If so, wouldn't the County Planning Dept. review the permit request and add necessary any rational requirements like upgrading the sewer system? Isn't the size of the system dependent upon the number of bedrooms?

Anonymous said...

I find it ludicrous that some people seem so concerned that vacation rental owners (and only them) are paying their taxes. Shouldn’t we ask for complete tax returns so that we’re sure they’re also paying their Federal and State income taxes? After all, G.E. and T.A. taxes all go to the State (not the County) just like income taxes. How about for any permit request from any property owner for any reason? We should also make sure every single resident on the island is paying all their taxes too. Yes! Let’s make the county insure that all residents are paying their State taxes. Lots of individuals and businesses are tax cheats (Gary Hooser for one blatant example) yet you focus only on VR owners. How hypocritical is that? What’s also hypocritical is that with the lack of affordable housing here, we’ve got many residential properties where the bedrooms are filled with local long-term residents that piss and poo just as much as any tourist does. What? Is tourist pee more toxic than locals’? What a joke! If we’re seriously concerned with water pollution then all properties near the ocean or streams or where the ground water is close to the surface should be required to upgrade to septic tanks now. What are we waiting for? All the reefs and fish to die before we do this? Extreme hypocrites you are.

Anonymous said...

The bigger picture will be DEPLETION of long term rentals in a residential district. DEPLETION of residential properties for single family residents. Needs to be stopped while in the stopping stage.

Anonymous said...

7:25
Yes. The County reviews such plans to ensure that the cesspool or septic tank is adequate. And the DOH used to also, although this may have been delegated to the County at this time. You are not allowed to add if the cesspool has ever had a call on record or the septic system is inadequate for the number of rooms or bathrooms. And the County is careful you do not call a bedroom an office or something else.

Anonymous said...

hey uh 'depletion:"
single family residents have to live in the property in order to rent room (s).

Anonymous said...

"DEPLETION" only occurs because the County makes it too difficult and costly to build reasonably-priced developments. Fact: The resident population is growing. Fact: County regulations, inefficiency and outright sloth & corruption prevents affordable housing projects by pretty much anyone but A&B.

Anonymous said...

This is the Truth and Yukimura has over 20 years of experience creating this problem for the people who are born and raised on Kauai and also for people who want to move here and buy affortable houses.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to understand and know the facts about how Yukimura created the problem. I am not into politics, but would like to understand how one person is able to be the creator of no affordable homes here on Kauai. I am being sincere and would like some facts, next time i will be better at the voting booth with the information 10:29 can provide! Mahalo!

Sam Lee said...

First Joan's post, then the headline article in today's GI. WOW! Gives those of us whose focus is on preserving residential neighborhoods for full time residents and who advocate for the preservation of our dwindling Ag lands; hope. Thank you, Joan, Mel Rapozo. Kipu Kai Kualii and Ross Kagawa; for stepping out to defend the silent majority who ask only to be left in peace. To repeat what we have said in the past, we do not oppose vacation rentals providing they operate within the VDA. We do oppose vacation rentals expanding into residential zoned neighborhoods and onto farm lands. Tomorrow starts a long round of meetings and hearings before the Council. For those of you concerned about the proliferation of vacation rentals beyond the VDA, think about becoming involved. Attend the meetings, testify, submit letters and emails to the Council. The reason we are where we are, faced with an out of control vacation rental deluge, is in part due to our silence. Get involved. It works.

Best wishes to all

sam

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the council is up to ensuring our residential neighborhoods do not allow more transient uses to be legal. One of the reasons there is no housing is because so many "used to be homes" are resorts rather than residences. It is necessary for council to fund real enforcement, not allowing more to be approved in the name of home stay. Home use can never compete with commercial use.
Thank you Sam for your efforts to preserve what is left.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:52 pm

Outstanding post!

Sam Lee said...

I strongly believe there is room for us to do what we'd like to do, in the proper place. The majority of the folks living on this island live by the requirements of the zoning code. We always have and always will.

Aloha to All, sam

Anonymous said...

Sammy- Have you driven thru Puhi, Hanamaulu, Kapahi, Eleele Nani and other subdivisions?
There are more illegal rooms, decks, out buildings and there are probably 2000 Tim Bynum prototype Rice Cookers lurking in these undocumented additions.
Also...every tarp type car tent is illegal, if up for more than 30 days....another 5000 violations.
Your comments are well written, but completely in fantasy land.
There are so many additions in Hanamaulu that the Planners have even considered a "special" rule for this area.
I do not think it is wrong for people to build as they see fit for their families.
The housing crisis is not at the feet of a few BnBs. It is at the feet of politicians like JoAnn and Gary. JoAnn with her whispering nudges to the Water Department decades ago...Psst. No water, no buildings. JoAnn knew that Water was the key. Gary with his - I am against everything except when I am the realator
So in an incestuous mix of no Water and a Planning Department intent on stopping the evil rich Haoles from moving here they have created a situation where we all suffer due to societal change as dictated by Ms Yukimura.

JoAnn may be the smartest and most impactive politician in Kauai's history.

Unfortunately the impact has left thousands living in multi generational homes, government sponsored apartments and NO f*cking plans to allow some decent new housing.
14,000 for a water meter? Aloha nui for any 450K housing.
We are loving Kauai to death and only the rich landed newcomers, section 8 renters and retired big pensioned government employees can afford to live here.

And it is easy to build a few hundred good homes....all we need is for the Planning Department and Water to get their act together AND FOR the Council to go to GF or A&B etc and beg them to help. Of course after Timmy, JoAnn, Gary and Mason tried to put Big Land OUT OF BUSINESS with their anti-ag law, it might be hard for Big Land to listen. But if a few Council members groveled and passed legislation to ease simple developments Big Land could solve the problems in 2 shakes.

Anonymous said...

Let's look at the housing equation and its variables. One factor of the equation is that very little affordable housing is being built in relation to the continually growing demand for it. So the supply is virtually unchanging. The dgrowing emand for housing is from various sources: local population growth due children, investment by off-islanders for vacation homes and transient rentals, and people moving to Kauai from elsewhere. It is the growth variables that we are failing to control. But what I think is a false allegation is laying the blame solely on vacation rentals and not on the other two growth sources especially by those who comprise those sources, the latter one most of all. That is true hypocracy.

Anonymous said...

Your conflaton of what you have observed as unpermitted ( NOT ILLEGAL) Rooms, decks, out buildings and tarp type car covers, with illegal TVR's is laughable, although I do agree with the rest of your observations.

Anonymous said...

View some great Theatre NOW by tuning into the current Kauai Council meeting! SNAP!
JoAnn out of control. Ross gonna punch someone out?...you could not make this stuff up!

Anonymous said...

i was going to go to the meeting today and testify but i had a odd sense of darkness feelings i guess were correct i hate when council chambers fall apart in public its very upsetting to watch

Anonymous said...

More like Mr. Adolf Hitler lost it and needed to be arrested or put in Mahelona too much car paint he inhaled.

Anonymous said...

what happened?

Anonymous said...

Hysterical ,out of control JoAnn, about 2 hours and 25 minutes it starts. comedy at its finest. Its the second link on the webcast site about half way through

Anonymous said...

Shutting down a half a dozen B&Bs, that have been operating for years with no complaints, is not going to solve Kauai's long term housing crisis. Allow those who have been operating with the promise that the county would address their permitting process at some unspecified date in the future, to finally be legally permitted. Stop lumping them into the same category as illegal TVRs with inadequate septic systems that are ruining neighborhoods. They are not the same!
Council member Kagawa,it is unrealistic to believe that just because your children were born and raised on Kauai, they are somehow entitled to own a home here. Look around you. There are millions of people in America who will never own a home, even if their grandparents were able to purchase one back in the 50's using the GI Bill or during the 60's or 70's when housing costs were not astronomical. You are misplacing your anger and frustration on a few dozen people who have nothing to do with the problem. Better to turn your focus to creating long term affordable housing with financing available for those of us who will never be able to "set aside" a 20% down payment for a half a million dollar home.

Anonymous said...

Grandfathering is a term to allow a previously legal use to continue when laws are made that no longer allow that use. It is severely wrong in this situation, where B&Bs have always been allowed with a Use Permit. Grandfathering was never meant to allow Un permitted uses to be made legal. And the current home stay process should not grandfather any operation that did not bother to get a Use Permit and in fact did operate illegally . Why they never bothered to get a permit when one was always available?

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:15am,
When questioned by the County Council, why couldn't the planning department produce evidence of a single B&B permit that had been issued over the past 20 years? Because they told those B&B owners who inquired about obtaining one that there was no permit available to specifically address Homestays and B&Bs, therefore one was not needed. B&B owners were told that they did not qualify to even apply for a TVR permit since their accommodations did not fall under the definition of a TVR. In 2008, the County Council specifically stated that their TVR ordinance DID NOT address B&B and Homestays, but that they would address it as a separate issue at a later date. Logic follows that something that does not exist is unobtainable.

Anonymous said...

8:15, question asked and answered, why bother ask if you think you know everything? And you are wrong anyway, with only part of the county answer, leaving out the crucial parts.

Anonymous said...

Regarding housing, here's an article interviewing someone who probably knows a lot about it.
http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/blog/2015/12/hawaiis-housing-problem-could-be-fixed-by.html?ana=e_du_pub&s=article_du&ed=2015-12-03&u=on%2BD5JX%2BQ4P9vZ4FwHt6DPuWGtI&t=1449254361

Anonymous said...

7:41 said, shutting a half dozen B&Bs who have been operating (illegally) for years, ain't going to help the solve housing shortage. Half a dozen? Lets see what the Planning department comes up with in about a week.

Anonymous said...

9:16

contrary to what you and others keep saying, Joan's recent research into Planning department records showed that use permits for B&Bs have been issued regularly over many years. what say you to that?