Monday, May 26, 2014

Musings: Odd, Even Fishy

There was irony in the state Land Board's decision to levy a $31,000 fine against PUC Chair Mina Morita and her husband, Lance Laney, and order them to stop operating two vacation rentals in Hanalei Valley.

It's this: If they were under county jurisdiction, they'd still be operating with impunity. Even if they had lied on a sworn affidavit, falsified documents or never bothered to apply for a county permit at all, they'd still be open, just like all the other illegal TVRs.

If their vacation rental had been on state conservation land in Haena, they'd still be operating with impunity, like all the other illegal TVRs the state has failed to shut down there. More on that in a minute.

And most importantly, if Mina hadn't pissed off Hanalei boatyard owner Mike Sheehan and Gov. Neil Abercrombie's wealthy contributors, they'd still be operating with impunity.

Because it strikes me as rather odd, even fishy, that twice the state contacted Lance about the structures on their property — in 1996 and again in 2008 — and twice Lance responded. Both times, he heard nothing back. But now, 18 years after the first contact, and six years after the second, they're dinged. 

Just when the guv wants to dump Mina for someone more business-friendly and Sheehan is badgering Office of Coastal and Conservation Lands (OCCL) for enforcement action.

Action that was intentionally “leaked” to The Garden Island before Mina and Lance had even received notification, and while she was in the midst of a political drama over her reappointment to the PUC.

Yeah, it's all fishy enough to smell pretty stink.

Getting back to those illegal TVRs on state conservation land at Wainiha-Haena. Last Friday, in making his case to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, OCCL director Sam Lemmo claimed that his division was actively enforcing against TVRs on lands under state authority, hence the need to make an example of Mina.

And I immediately flashed back to how former Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane and his boss, defeated Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri, claimed they were enforcing against numerous zoning violators. But somehow, only Councilman Tim Bynum got hit with criminal charges.

So where is the evidence of all that supposed state enforcement? There is none, because it's still business as usual — even though those property owners built their homes under a conservation district use permit that specifically prohibited commercial uses.

As proof, one need only consult county real property tax records. In 2013, the county employed a “use”-based approach to real property taxation, based on a questionnaire sent to property owners.

In 2014, eight Conservation District parcels again admitted to illegal and unpermitted TVR use. The county classified them as vacation rentals for tax purposes, even though none have the county certificates required to operate a TVR on Kauai and none are allowed such a use on conservation land.

One $3.9 million property belongs to Joe Paskal, who isn't on Sheehan's shit list because he backed commercial tour boats in Hanalei. Then there's David Kuraoka's “Makana Lani.” He did get fined, but is fighting it and apparently still operating in the meantime. Next is Edward Hayes with his “Uncle Ed’s Cottage.”

Then there's the $2.99 million Moore property and the $5.53 million “Waipuna” TVR owned by the Honolulu-based KTK Family Limited Partnership. Though the state did levy a $15,000 fine against the Stice property, which was then sold and the house demolished, the TVR classification remains.

Oh, and let's not forget the $5.2 million house owned by the Guslander Trust, or the $4.2 million “Rice Haena Point House” owned by the Honolulu-based Haena Trust. No political connections there.

So even as the other illegal uses continue, Mina and Lance got a hefty fine, and were the only ones ordered to remove two structures, only one of which was being used as a TVR. And this is happening even though their use agreement with the state did not expressly prohibit commercial uses, as is the case on conservation lands.

I'm not trying to drum up sympathy for Mina and Lance. 

It's the unequal treatment that grates.

Because once again, we see the county and state taking one of two approaches to enforcement: blind eye, or retaliation.

Instead of treating everyone equally, both the state and county cherry pick their cases, targeting those who fall into political disfavor, or fail to secure the services of an attorney previously employed by the county. The county has allowed many others to simply come into compliance, though their permits should've been revoked because the renewals were so delinquent or they failed to submit the proper documents.

In short, some TVR owners are getting creamed, while others are allowed to keeping skimming off the cream.

Is it any wonder that people have so little faith in “the system?”


Anonymous said...

Well then letʻs put this up on the bulletin board as a precedent, Moritaʻs illegal use and the punishment that goes with it:
-hefty fine, and ordered to remove structures.!!!!!!!
If it can be done once it can be done again. And again.

Sheehan, what a piece of I-me-mine work. Except that it isnʻt even his, itʻs his wifeʻs. Can we assume her appointment has something to do with this too? I would guess it does.

More coming soon, June 24 Planning Commission, Koloa Rum Company: a new distillery on Ag land, rum tasting bar, all the other amenities that go with something of this magnitude.

It will be a massive area situated across from a youth activity park.

Howʻs that sound? Not an accepted ag use so they will be applying for special use. Hundreds of drunk tourists that are so drunk they canʻt read their GPS flying out of there on a daily and nightly. The owner has a petition circulating just like Satterfield did.

I really really got to scratch my head on how much effort these know-betters in the county put into banning cigarette smoking but donʻt blink an eye when it comes to the deadliest killer of all: ALCOHOL. Is it because all the government officials are a bunch of drunks?

Anonymous said...

Mina and Jackpot Tim may have been politically targeted. So what?
Politicians should be held to at least the standards they cram down the rest of the ordinary people's throats.
It is common practice that if you ruffle the feathers of the powers that be, you will get a sharp beak poked into your whatever.
Mina is a nice person and she will take her punishment like the lady she is. She won't be a runnin' trying to sue or blame others.
The TVR situation is a problem. However, it pales in comparison with huge situations on this island. 1-Housing for the folks, working and elderly 2- Out of control government spending 3- Poor roads 4- Council members passing unenforceable, inconsequential or flat out illegal laws 5-Drugs 6- Landfill 7- elec cost - etc.
On the other hand we also have a friendly helpful citizenry, low crime rate, great environment...far more for which to be grateful, than to be angry.
Kauai is similar to many "resort" areas that get discovered and then taken over by transplants.
Our difference is that several Kauai politicians have forgotten about the locals, they pass laws that cost locals more money, fight local development housing, fight existing job makers and kowtow to their malihini wealthy masters with new age fad ideas.
Namaste, have you done your yoga today?

Anonymous said...

There is a connection between the lack of affordable housing and the TVR situation. Housing that could be used for long term rental is less lucrative than short-term vacation rental income. With it comes a host of all other problems like noise and traffic in once quiet neighborhoods not to mention the rise in real property taxes for surrounding properties.

Abercrombie is a shmuck. He has become corrupted by power and is kowtowing to his well-financed (mainland) backers. His selective targeting of Mina is one example of the kind of politics he's playing today and it sure as hell stinks. Vote him and all of his millions out of office or Hawaii will go the way of Hong Kong (at least Kaka'ako will).

Mina has always had the best interests of the people at heart and when you are unwilling to play with the big boys, you get back stabbed by the powers that be. And did you see her vacation rental in comparison to what's along the coast from Hanalei to Haena? Quaint little rustic cottage versus all those mini-resorts owned by those who play ball with the powers that be (hire lawyers like Jonathan Chun, Walton Hong, Lorna Nishimitsu) and get away with it. This shit makes my stomach turn.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the words ʻaffordable housingʻ (especially for locals) banned from our vocabulary along with ʻsustainablityʻ, ʻgreenʻ and ʻmore jobsʻ.

The housing always turns out to be a money laundering scam and itʻs never locals that get to use it.

The other words, Iʻm sure you figured out they are empty and intended to go nowhere except on a developers application.

Anonymous said...

3:18 Affordable (gap) housing could be at 400K (basic house) built out, ready to go. But not with the Zoning process for Ag taking at least 7 years at the State and then another 2 at the County (at least, if the Hooser and the Bynum have anything to do with it, nothing will be built). The County will rake you over the coals, you never have any idea of how many units or on what conditions are allowed until the end of the process...If there was a guarantee of a 1 year entitlement process, fee simple lots and homes could be provided at 400K. Including the BS 20K H2O meter and another 17K septic system....The County and State are in cahoots to stop development, at the expense of the people who need it the most.
Also 3:18, there are many people on Kauai who have made dough in Real Estate and would would cut back on profit to provide a good thing.

Anonymous said...

You have put $400,000 and affordable in the same sentence. Was that an error or are you being facetious?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like selective enforcement while the most blatant people do it with impunity.

Anonymous said...

To call out people by name kinda sucks. And a lot of locals DO benefit from the rentals. You speak out one side of your mouth and complain how the Kapaa condos were not constructed as planned for local housing and then want to shut down the TVR's that sustain a lot of the lower income workers on the North Shore... It seems like since you have your place, it is easy to sit back and hammer on others - many very likely the service people who are working nearby for low wages. Without those TVR's, you don't allow lower income people to live here and with that, the smaller local businesses shutdown and then the big money commercial people take over and then you scream twice as loud and complain. Which is it gonna be?

Anonymous said...

The above poster got it wrong, local people used to live here, now they can be maids or housekeepers but can't live here...yep they can earn money here. And if these TVR's did not exist , the visitors would be in the VDA and the jobs would be there and would include health insurance and vacation time etc.

Anonymous said...

@6:20 - I sure wish everyone had health benefits and what you describe and maybe in the future we'll see that. But if they are "maids or housekeepers" then they are obviously living here. My opinion is that if the TVR's weren't around (or the illegal rentals) they would literally be out on the street - now we have 2-3-4 people splitting rent in some decent places so they get by. How often have we picked people up for a ride who work in Kilauea, P-Ville or Hanalei heading to their "rental". Or taking the bus to Lihue? Wasn't it the big resorts that put the kabash on the TVR's so they could increase their $$? There are many affordable, acceptable rentals that suffered because of this. I'm rooting for the "little guy/gal" here and saying don't blow the whistle by calling out by name some places that might be helping locals. Granted, some go to tourists, but they are still an ongoing partial solution to the housing problem. How one separates the viable rentals from the "shanty" rentals is a problem beyond my feeble mind... but they serve a critical purpose. If every single TVR gets squeezed out, it is going to create a huge problem for the person cashing you out at the store or the bartender or the cooks and on and on. Housing is going to become a huge problem (more than it currently is) - unfortunately, it seems like the world has finally turned its eyes on Kauai - the last of the unspoiled islands and the growing pains are getting more and more serious and sadly, are going to get worse. It's a time when a govt that supports the people on the island is enormously important - growth is about to skyrocket and it can't be stopped, but must be managed responsibly...

Anonymous said...

"So even as the other illegal uses continue, Mina and Lance got a hefty fine, and were the only ones ordered to remove two structures, only one of which was being used as a TVR."

While that sounds unfair, do any of the Haeana properties you list have unpermitted houses to tear down?

Joan Conrow said...

It appears that some do have unpermitted additions and enclosures.

Anonymous said...

Do any of them have a bunch of unpermitted houses? Which ones?

They're not even making Mina Morita tear down ALL of her unpermitted houses, just two of them.

Anonymous said...

Managed responsibly? The market will dictate what happens and it doesn't care about responsible management. It's all about the money.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Kollar supposed to be cracking down? In the pitiful showing they made to the council last year when you brought all the abuse chronicles to light - they promised enforcement right? Guess the new prosecutor is too busy dealing with his drunk-driving, defendant-banging, and inept deputies.