Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Musings: Doling Out Rewards

The first applications for vacation rentals (TVRs) on agricultural land are now starting to trickle in for Planning Commission approval, with the panel considering three at its meeting yesterday.

The applications are raising a number of thorny questions, including how such approvals would affect the value of the property, how it’s going to work on property that has been divided through the CPR process — this affects 37 of the 65 applicants — and most important, just how these commercial uses of agricultural land can be justified under state law as “unusual and reasonable uses.”

One of the first up to bat was Bruce Fehring, who wants approval for a TVR in the Wailapa ag subdivision, just south of Kilauea town. He told commissioners that he’s been doing a vacation rental since 1995-96. But when I checked out the Internet, which is a good place to find out what people are actually doing with their TVRs, as opposed to what they tell the county, I saw that he has two: Hale Kai Kalani and Twin Hearts, which is advertised as (emphasis added) “a wonderful private new one bedroom, one bath handcrafted rental honeymoon cottage on our organic 7.5 acre Kauai North Shore estate/gardens parcel.”

You notice there’s no mention of the word “farm,” even though that is supposed to be a requirement for an ag TVR.

The ad goes on to note (emphasis added) that Twin Hearts is located “about 100 yards (and lots of hedges and trees) from our house, and 250 similar yards from Hale Kai Kalani, our larger vacation rental home."

Yet Fehring told commissioners that he lives in his TVR about 60 percent of the time and rents it out for the remainder. How can that be, when he clearly has a primary residence on the land?

Though Commissioner Caven Raco asked — twice — how much the property would increase in value if the TVR use was approved, Fehring ducked the question, replying instead that the TVR revenue “offsets the dollars to run the property.”

Indeed. But should other property tax payers, legit farmers and people who chose to follow the law by not doing illegal TVRs on ag land, be asked to subsidize Fehring’s lifestyle and real estate investments? Surely the big settlement from Jimmy Pflueger has helped to cover some of his bills.

Another person who can’t actually need the money is Falko Partners owner Larry Bowman, who wants approval for a TVR at Valley House. But though the company has already created a web page for the property, which is described as “a secluded luxury estate on lush acreage in Kealia, Kauai” — again, no mention of a “farm” — access to the site was blocked. Perhaps it will be lifted when approval is granted and no one cares whether the application reflects reality.

Another sticky bit of reality comes into play regarding properties divided through a CPR. Commissioner Wayne Katayama was curious about a few things, including how TVR approval would affect the value of the entire TMK. Other questions: can someone get approval for a TVR on a CPR if it’s another landowner in the CPR who actually has the "farm?” Who in the CPR signed the farm dwelling agreement? And is anyone else in the CPR coming in for a TVR?

Those are only a few of the unanswered questions arising as the county wades into the ag TVR quagmire. PONO — Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana — raised others in its testimony, which is essentially an evaluation of the process, using state law (Chapter 205) as the guide.

As the group’s cover letter to Commissioners noted:

This testimony is being submitted on behalf of Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana as we believe the cumulative and secondary impacts of the nonstop expansion of these transient vacation rental commercial resort uses outside the Visitor Destination Area, into residential areas, and now on to agricultural lands in the North Shore Special Planning Area, will continue to increase the negative impacts in our residential neighborhoods and undermine good planning.

Our testimony today is not specific to any of the above applications, but makes suggestions about evaluating these and other future applications. The paper provides material about the standards and criteria we believe you need to consider prior to making a decision on each of the above, and any future applications for commercial uses on Ag lands.

The evaluation raises a number of good questions:

Is this agricultural tourism? Will the County require an environmental assessment
under Chapter 343? Does the application meet the “farm dwelling” definition? Is there a signed farm dwelling agreement? Does “bona fide” farming exist on the parcel? Is the TVR use “ancillary” to the farming operation? How does this transient vacation rental comply with the farm dwelling agreement? Will people and/or corporations who violated the farm dwelling agreement be rewarded?

One can only hope that Commissioners and planners take those questions into consideration as they decide whether to dole out lucrative rewards at the expense of our agricultural land.


Paul said...

I'm generally a fan of this blog, but was it really necessary to take that shot at Fehring in connection to the Pflueger settlement? Didn't seem to move your argument forward.

Anonymous said...

These TVR outside of the VDA's are all illegal! Our hotels are only 60% full and they provide jobs for the island. Almost all TVR's do not provide jobs. Furthermore, many TVR's don't pay the proper taxes; many of these transactions are being done under the table. Third, these lands are supposed to provide food for the island when over 85% of our food is imported.

STOP illegal TVR's! We need better enforcement and a crackdown. All these should be denied since this was never the intent of using Ag lands as VDA's.

Joan Conrow said...

To July 13, 2011 9:49 AM

FYI, is a site that was graciously provided to me for posting PDFs for this blog so that I can provide readers with access to primary documents. It has nothing to do PONO or PONO's testimony.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think it is downright weird the the first person to ask for a permit is Fehring? Crude, but isn't that the very property his family and others were swept away from? Not exactly a suitable tourist designation

Anonymous said...

You notice there’s no mention of the word “farm,” even though that is supposed to be a requirement for an ag TVR."

Not true. For instance, little bitty lots on ag land don't have to be farms to get tvr permits under county law.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, there are a couple dozen TVRs on ag that are asking for grandfathering, because they previously operated. Some of those are on "real ag land", some are on unfarmable, small parcel junk land.
Other than them, no one can get a permit cause deadlines passed.
IMHO, there are far more productive battles to be fighting instead of this old one, which just does not seem to be that big of an issue. Its the hotels that ruin the scenery, rip off the tourists, use mega air conditioning, dont recycle the money here and push fake hawaiian culture. Love the TVR and shut down the hotels, convert them into low income housing.

Anonymous said...

Paul said...
"I'm generally a fan of this blog, but was it really necessary to take that shot at Fehring in connection to the Pflueger settlement? Didn't seem to move your argument forward."
July 13, 2011 10:19 AM

Wrong you are Paul.
I was surprised Joan did because I was going to.
I think Fehring squeezed (or tried) the publicʻs sympathies on the trajedy of his own fault long long enough.
Personally I was disgusted with him at the start of it and even more now. He will no doubt use his face to try to continue this emotional blackmail with the Commissioners.
These kind never should have come here. Thereʻs too damn many of them.
He has no one to blame for those deaths except himself; he has NO problem placing blame on many others and taking our tax dollars so I call the prick what he is: a ruthless greedy blood money low life.

Weep over that Fehring. But I doubt it, thereʻs been nothing but crocodile tears since you contributed to your familyʻs demise and the BS has to stop.

Paul said...

>"I call the prick what he is: a ruthless greedy blood money low life."

Well, at least you're keeping emotion and name-calling out of it.

Anonymous said...

"I call the prick what he is: a ruthless greedy blood money low life."

You didn't just happen to have written him a huge check recently?

Anonymous said...

So it's your own fault if you live below a dam where the owner violated the law leading to a failure and the death of your family?

Hey Anonymous, fuck you asshole. You are a cock sucker. Dickhead.

Anonymous said...

Relax anonymous 8:12....get your facts straight. Bruce built illegal houses in a Floodway !!!! His family suffered...feel sorry for them....Dirk

Anonymous said...

Well I am going to try to be civil here and if you knew me... well im proud cause thats not usually how i roll. I want to clear some of this confusion up with the Fehrings because it seems as though some of you may not have all the facts. I have the courtesy of Knowing Bruce Fehring personally and although I love the man I have had my own issues with him but that is besides the point and to be honest I had as much to play in those issues as he. First off the Fehrings have never recieved a dime from the Pflugers... look it up if you dont believe me and fact check your own posts... the reason for the second lawsuit against hawaii was because they did not make pfluger pay.... How could they of won that lawsuit if pfluger payed?? he didnt. So right now the fehrings are waiting for this money from the pflugers for how long now??? huh wonder why this wont rest??? oh ya cause it isnt resolved yet. And if they dont get it from the pflugers hawaii is going to have to pay them and in my mind rightfully so. The government is there to serve and protect. If they can not do either than they should have more than there asses sued IMHO... however I am a yankee and a hell of a patriot. Now as for the rentals they do cover the expense of his farm... yes he does have a farm.. no it might not be a farm corporation or be huge producing food but they go to the farmers market everyweek with produce and have bees, cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and pigs.... they also have an orchard, and large garden areas as well as some small pineapple fields and sweet potatoe fields... now you all might not call that farming but thats a lot of farm work in my eyes.. and ya im a farmer so ya i know but im sure you all have phds in the matter so ill shut up... In the end the fehrings i feel are trying harder to be a farm than a lot of ppl claiming they are out here... if your hotel is 60% full try dropping your price... and dont forget kauai decided to put all their eggs in the tourist basket not the fehrings... oh ya and diversified by having monsantos come here. great move! now back to Jimmy... he was busted for illegal grading how many times??? im just gonna let you google that one yourselves... also he was given warning for blocking the overflow of the dam by the state???? ya google that too... and then it go so full it burst because there was no overflow... ya sorry let me shed some tears for poor mister jimmy.... isnt there a song for this??? And now who is hiding all his assets so he doesnt have to pay and doesnt give a shit that all you and me as hawaiian tax payers are going to end up paying??? guess... go ahead... ill give you a hint not bruce or any of the fehrings... if you want i would love to link you to all this information because it seems like many of you are ill informed... if you would like to know more use this website called google... just type in Pflueger illegal grading... Pflueger giant wave... Pflueger state of hawaii.. etc... I understand many of you are a big fan of him... I unfortunately have never gotten the chance to meet the man... I hold none of this against him because where I am from we call this none of our business and hope that the law and if need be god figures it out and makes justice... Mahalo and Aloha... ps all u these are the ppl who dont belong better be hawaiian else this is whos cruise ship arrived first...