Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Musings: Fresh Start

I returned from India, where the weather and plants were similar to Hawaii, to my sister's house in New Mexico, where it is full-fledged spring.

As in flowering bulbs.
Leafing trees.
Riotous blooms.
Roadside wildflowers.
Brilliant color. 
And it was all the more dramatic for having emerged from bare limbs, cold soil, stark landscapes, the desert.

It's been decades since I experienced a real spring, with its vivid reminder of renewal; bees, birds and blossoms heralding the circle of life and its unceasing cycle of life and death, constant change.

It's easy to forget that in Hawaii, where the seasons are subtle, the temperature range is minimal, the landscape never really sleeps.  

Still, there is hope of a fresh — and legal — start for the Kauai homestay industry. The county planning commission, acting with uncharacteristic swiftness, yesterday approved an ordinance regulating homestays/B&Bs. 

As important as the speed was the simplicity of the bill, which clearly defines the use as requiring a live-in homeowner and caps the applications at no more than 10 per year.

Attorney Jonathan Chun has helped numerous illegal TVRs become legal and is now assisting other properties — some of them actually unpermitted TVRs — in getting licensed as homestays/B&Bs. He claimed the county's recent crackdown — replete with cease and desist orders — was unprecedented and unfair.

They responded, they ceased and desist, they come and file an application, and then the county tells them, ‘Sorry, it’s too much for me to handle. You’ve got to wait 10, 15 or 30 years and we’ll get to you.’

Well, so be it. It's a special use, which means they aren't entitled to it, it's a privilege. And if they have to wait, that's just the way it goes. No reason why the county should overload its permitting — oops, I mean planning — department with applications, or inundate neighborhoods with more resort uses when some communities already are reeling from the onslaught of legal and illegal TVRs.

And just because the county has never previously been so aggressive in its enforcement actions, doesn't mean it should continue to slack for the benefit of the homestay operators who got caught in the sweep.

As planning director Michael Dahilig noted, the county has sent out fewer than 100 cease and desist notices, with most going to illegal TVRs, which is entirely proper. 

Unpermitted TVRs have been a big problem for a long time. They aren't fair to the people who got permits, and they aren't fair to the communities that suffer the impacts of uncontrolled resort uses. Nor is it fair for unpermitted TVRS to now masquerade as homestays. So good on the planning department for cracking down the charlatans.

Only 16 notices went to homestays, which is pretty minor in the overall scheme of things, despite the sky-is-falling stories that homestay operators and their guests have taken to the local newspaper.

Under the ordinance approved by the planning commission, they could all be legit in two years — not the 10, 15 or 30 that Jonathan claimed.

The County Council still has to approve the ordinance, so it's unclear how they may alter what appears to be a winning formula. But at least it's off to a strong start, and it appears the planning department is committed to making it work.

Hope springs eternal.


Anonymous said...

Question? Why does the state accept and receive tax money from illegal TVRs and BBs giving them credence then the county fines them?

Anonymous said...

because the state does not check whether ones business is legal when they collect the tax. You report your income and the tax is calcuated from that.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see some of these TVRs and B&Bs and homestays incentivized by prioritizing licenses for those who can demonstrate that they have installed septic tanks or systems for the property. They should ALL have septic systems--especially those near or on the water--but this could be a way of phasing in a mandatory requirement incrementally.

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of selective enforcement.
Mike Dahlig is on a power trip. The Planning Commission historically has been made up of average citizens who are supposed to reflect the "average joe" and the community. Now the Commission is a bunch of bobble heads who have allowed the specific powers inherent in the Commission to be usurped by an overreaching Czar.
There are a gajillion Planning/Building violations. From the blaring signs, illegal Highway front businesses (Kapaa) etc.
Hands off our property rights. The County is now really telling you who you can have in your bedrooms.
The entire Planning enforcement system has usually been driven by specific complaints. Now, in knee jerk reaction a shotgun blast of BS may stop thousands of visitors from enjoying an alternative vacation. And I ain't speaking of the "alternative" BandBs that flame on the island.
I hope Jonaton Chun sues the bejesus out of the County. He will win, the County has not had a clear process for BB permitting. These BandBs have been operating for f^ing decades in the open.
Mr Chun is a decent man and not one to chase windmills. His reputation and respect are well known in every corner of the County. I hope he will take this violation of property rights and bring it to a judge.
First, the County goes after big farms, then specifically at Grove Farm...and now they are after Tutu Kane and Tutu Wahine for making a few extra bucks. This County is set on taking your property rights away.
Oh well, I guess I will wait for Tim Bynum's Big Bad Ass doobie shop to open, so I can get some Colas.
Maybe these Tutus should just grow some weed to supplement their income. The County will continuously tax them to death anyway.

Anonymous said...


There will be a push with the Council to reinsert language requiring paved off street parking and septic. This was in the original version but was inadvertently dropped during the rewrite. For any Homestay permit its a no brainer to require paved off street parking and septic. This will be added back into the ordinance; guarantee. Residents will insist on it. Come to the Council and help the push.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 2:03.

It is selective enforcement. You and your pals were selected because you are Illegal. Whats wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

How come so many of the people asking for B&B permits are realtors or married to people who sell real estate ?

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the County try some enforcement in Hanamaulu?

Anonymous said...

8:16; I just have to ask - Are you by any chance, a white person who feels discriminated against over here?

Anonymous said...

Reading the paper, I saw the letter from the BnB guy in Lawai. He said Hawaii's biggest export should be ALOHA; like the kind they offer guests at their place. So me and my friend we was wondering, what is the daily rate for aloha nowdays?

one Hawaiian

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for when the report from the mainland private investigators that have been hired to dig up "violations" and "illegal activity" by the Dahlig, Rapozo, Carvalho, and other local families to show the hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone cite for me the actual place in Kauai County law that says B&B's must have special use permits? People keep saying they're illegal, but I have yet to find the document (and section) that states that. Joan?

Anonymous said...

That is the stupidest post on this blog, 3:23. Bring it on so we can all laugh. You need counseling, you nitwit.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:01 - I've also looked, and even paid an attorney tell me if renting my ohana unit short term is legal or not. The attorney ended up saying well it's the Kauai Planning Department they say it is illegal but she could not find a law that said so. She said they like to keep it it confusing. She could not say if it was legal or illegal but probably legal but too expensive to test. She joked that I better not call the police on my neighbors.

Seriously, can anyone point to where is the law that says it is illegal (or legal) to rent your extra bedroom short term? The General Plan seems to say it is OK. But I am sure the County has a good basis for issuing cease and desist letters too.

It is confusing to see who is telling the truth these days.

Joan Conrow said...

Perhaps this will help.

In the past, the Planning Director(s) have required B&B permits based on the previous version of the CZO (not now included in the Residential District). The previous version said,

Sec. 8-3.4 Uses and Structures in Residential Districts that Require a Use Permit, (1)...(18), and (19) Any other use or structure which the Planning Director finds to be similar in nature to those listed in this Section...

I believe the eight B&B Permits were issued under the old CZO language. I don’t know if any permits were issued in Ag.

But also, when you read the current definitions of “Dwelling”, “Dwelling, Single Family Detached”, etc. a Use Permit would be required when having a non-resident in a Dwelling; i.e., Dwellings are for residents. The county now wants to define Homestay as “owner-occupied dwelling unit” which distinguishes it from a TVR, which is solely occupied by non-residents (tourists).

Anonymous said...

2:03- The current Commission appears far more fair and balanced than a few years back.
7:54- Paved parking, septic, and lots of other rules and regs were not "inadvertently dropped". A stripped-down bill, with a clarified definition of home stay and a cap of 10 applications per year was passed, with the stated intention of the Planning Dept to introduce more legislation at a later date.

A clarifying definition was long overdue; the cap on applications is patently absurd. Why n
ot cap building permits at 10 per year? And drivers licenses? Planning has the time and resources to investigate over 100 "violations" and issue 100 Cease and Desist orders, but can only process 10 applications per year? Please, spare me. If the Council agrees to a cap of 10 applications per year, there will be lawsuits and justifiably so.

7:12- How many? 3 or 4 out of a hundred? About the same as most groups of people on this island.

8:16 and 8:54- Violations are violations, be they in Lawai, Hanamaulu, or Kilauea. What the hell does being white or brown have to do with it? It's OK to have 3 kitchens and 12 unrelated tenants in a house on a cesspool in Hanamaulu because your skin is brown?

I certainly hope that the Council can recognize Mr. Dahilig's campaign for what it is, an ill-advised, mean-spirited, likely illegal,and probably racist effort to appease a few disgruntled have-nots and to impress those who can easily be impressed by his puffed chest small mindedness. Get off your high horse, Mr. Dahilig, and do your job: PLAN! This County needs help with affordable housing (do NOT expect homestay operators to invite full-time residents into their bedrooms and kitchens), traffic flow on County roads, landfill planning, and many other issues. Home stays are manini in comparison, and an unprecedented enforcement campaign which targets owners/operators of what are obviously owner-occupied B&Bs and home stays is a waste of your valuable time.

Anonymous said...

6:35 you are so full of it. Almost all of them are illegal TVR's that did not get permitted, now calling themselves B&B.
And Mr. Dahilig is doing a fine job of not caving to the real estate interests this time. Not all residential areas work to bring in visitors to stay and turn residential uses to commercial ones. If you wanna run an Inn, buy property in the VDA.

Anonymous said...


Good ole attack politics; taken right out of your anti-GMO playbook. When guys like you get caught with your shorts down, its always, why pick on me, its so unfair. look at what's happening over there.

You got caught. Man up to it.

If you operate in a neighborhood where you don't belong by definition, you got what was coming to you.

Another mistake. If you think there are only a few disgruntled residents out there you are wrong. People all over this island; brown, yellow, white, green, blue are really fed up. What you see is the tip of the ice berg. Don't underestimate the size of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

Ohanas were allowed to ease the shortage in housing stocks for families You know - Ohana = Family. Not Tourist. Your attorney should have told you that.

Anonymous said...

What we'd like to know is, how many Homestay/BnBs are out there? Way more than the 16 identified in the C&D sweep. Back in 2005, the count was more than 170, so how many could there be 10 years later; hundreds?

The County is creating an ordinance to allow Homestays with limits on numbers. How do you do set limits before you know how many exist?

Common sense says, find out what you're dealing with before you start handing out permits.

Anonymous said...

somebody posted elsewhere on this blog there are about 700 places advertised on AirBNB for Kauai. Not sure what these are, BnBs, TVRs, or both. We got a BIG problem, if this is true.

Anonymous said...

checked out AirBnB for Kauai. there are 150+ places on the island advertised as home stay/bnbs and thats just on one site. How many have permits? NONE