Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Musings: Barking up the Wrong Tree

The transient vacation rental issue is back before the Kauai County Council tomorrow, with planners presenting an update on (chuckle) enforcement and a public hearing on the proposed homestay B&B law.

The Council will also consider a bill requiring lobbyists to register. It's been introduced, with no hint of irony, by a Councilman who actually engages in unregistered lobbying — Gary Hooser. He contends his bill is driven by a desire for “full disclosure.”

Yet he refuses to reveal who is funding his HAPA group, nor how much it spends on lobbying — like its opening day “food justice” event at the state Legislature — under the guise of education. Hooser also engages in the highly unethical practice of using county letterhead to advocate for positions that support HAPA's agenda.

Hooser tells The Garden Island:

We usually know who the lobbyists are because we’ve been here for a couple of years, but the public doesn’t know who they are. The public is watching John Smith on TV, they don’t know whether he’s a lobbyist or not, and it’s important for them to know also.

You know, like when Hooser goes to the Lege — or crashes the Sygenta shareholder meeting in Switzerland — and makes like he's speaking on behalf of Kauai and/or the Council, when he's really just shilling for the anti-GMO Center for Food Safety, which provides a hefty chunk of HAPA's funding. 

Yeah, li' dat.

Which is not to say the county shouldn't have a lobbying disclosure bill. Only that it's amusing to see someone with zero ethics, like Hooser, trying to waddle his way over to the high road.

The Council will also squander more valuable time on the barking dog bill, which has been rendered toothless. But that hasn't stopped Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura from tracking down “new information” to belabor in a presentation to colleagues who have long since tuned her out.

If only she and Gary had spent some time boning up on the real big issue before them tomorrow: the proliferation of visitor accommodations in residential areas, which has had a direct impact on housing prices, real property tax rates, long term rentals and a sense of community.

But then, JoAnn and Gary apparently have no qualms about letting the problem escalate through adoption of the proposed homestay/B&B bill, which they support and want loosened up. This bill would allow the county to permit an unlimited number of overnight accommodations, so long as the owner supposedly lives on site. It also bans these uses on ag land, a restriction that JoAnn and Gary oppose.

But since the county has no real enforcement, the bill basically opens the door for another flood of legalized hoteliers outside of the designated visitor destination areas where all tourist accommodations are supposed to be.

Here are some things the Council needs to consider in deliberating on the B&B/homestay bill:

In the TVR Enforcement Update that Planning Director Mike Dahilig made to the Council on Oct, 15, 2014, one of the main operational challenges cited was “illegal TVR’s now seeking safety in homestay use conversion.” This bill serves to legitimize, rather than curtail, these activities. And until county planners can get a handle on monitoring the permitted TVRs — much less the hundreds of illegal TVRs — it's unwise to add more to their workload.

B&Bs/Homestays have always required a use permit, and as I previously reported, the planning department did issue some in the past. Any existing operations that lack use permits are illegal and should not be “grandfathered,” a term reserved for uses that were previously legal until a new law subsequently outlawed that use. As we saw with the TVR debacle, the illegal guys were made legal, and the guys who had been following the law were forever barred from getting a lucrative TVR permit. That is morally wrong, and it was a mistake that should not be repeated with homestays.

More than 50 percent of Kauai's TVRs are located between Hanalei and Haena, an area that is in the tsunami zone, subject to frequent floods and lacking adequate emergency response capabilities. The TVRs have already irrevocably altered the North Shore. Let's not worsen the problem by adding in homestays/B&Bs.

Big Picture
The county General Plan states: "Alternative Visitor Accommodations permitting processes should consider the cumulative impact that a large concentration of alternative visitor units can have on a residential neighborhood.”

The county has never looked at this cumulative impact. Indeed, 65.2% of the permitted TVRs on the North Shore are within the special management area, which has its own cumulative impact requirement, but not one has an SMA permit. Why is that?
It's extremely poor planning to allow an unlimited number of B&Bs/homestays to seek permits without looking carefully at the impacts. In its reports to planning, the county Housing Department has alluded to the impacts that visitor accommodations are having on long-term rentals. This is a serious problem that is adversely impacting local residents.

The Council should request that Housing conduct a full assessment of the impact of TVRs/homestays on the long-term rental market before allowing any more visitor lodging in residential neighborhoods.

As Caren Diamond of the Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana observed in written testimony submitted to the Council:

This proposed ordinance needs substantial work as it does not take into account the many challenges that have been created due to the passage of the TVR ordinances to Kauai’s residential neighborhoods, infrastructure and safety. Adding to those challenges at this time would be imprudent. Please do not consider permitting more resort units outside of the VDA in these residential areas.


Unknown said...

Agree 100%. No more TVUs outside the VDA. Lets get a handle on where and how many illegal operations are in business and require they be closed before any new permits are issued. How can more be contemplated when we don't know what we already have?

aloha, Sam

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this blog was interesting. I tend to stop reading at the first "Gary" and go straight to the comments.

Joan Conrow said...

@ 8:35

Ah ha. That helps explain the ignorance rampant among so many of Gary's true-believers. Can't risk reading anything that might challenge your beliefs!

Unknown said...

Oh and another thing. If the County fails at allowing more transient vacation units in your neighborhood, their next move might be to change your zoning from R to VDA ; which is what they tried to do to us. With a already 50% TVR saturation rate, think they gave much thought to cumulative impact? VDA would have allowed 100%. Worse yet, the move was given a underhanded assist by two self serving , self styled community leaders (joke) who pushed hard for the change even though they don't live in the neighborhood. Hmmm. Anybody want to guess why?

Best, Sam

Anonymous said...

Another great rip and shred of Hooser! We love you Joan! It is too bad none of the other council members thought to introduce a lobbying Bill. Can't believe Kauai County has no law regulating lobbying. Hope this measure also keeps Mel from lobbying on anti marywanna issues since he is on the Board of the Drug Court. It is despicable that he does not disclose this or his retired cop status when he rails against recreational drug use. Arryl also needs to stop voting on land use issues.

Anonymous said...

Enforcement will be expensive and line the pockets of the attorneys representing the vacation rentals.

Anonymous said...

In case truth matters anymore to you Joan (which I find highly unlikely), by definition in order to be a lobbied you must get paid to lobby and from what I know, Hooser is not paid to lobby. And every council member testifies at state legislature using county letterhead and without any official blessing by the county. Mel testifies on cop and drug related issues, KipuKai tesififies in LGBT and YWCA related issues. Both belong to organizations related to those issues. Why not shred them too?

Joan Conrow said...

9:45. Arryl does refrain from voting on land use issues that affect Grove Farm.

10:49. Do Mel and KipuKai use county letterhead to lobby/testify on their personal interests? Please document. Because truth does matter. A

Anonymous said...

Well, that's Gary's MO...he likes to propose legislation that will benefit him personally: like framing the ethics registration to his liking and structuring the property tax code so he can keep renting out a room in his house and get a big tax break. Look for the personal angle in everything he puts out there.

Anonymous said...

11:35am. Has Hooser ever voted on something with a direct impact on HAPA? Short answer is no because no Bills impacting HAPA have ever been proposed

11:37am. The definition for lobbyists that is in the Bill is same as is used everywhere. The big fist is not so stupid but reverse, guys fucking brilliant. He introduces the toughest lobbying Bill in the State and now will set back and watch Ross and the other 3 publicly weaken it in support of the big companies. Watch Kanishiro and the others go to bat for the big guys. Great political set up he must have learned playing with the big boys in the Senate.

Anonymous said...

9:45 and 10:49 Just look at the last election results, Hooser is doomed and he knows it. It will be a joyous occasion, hopefully then you will shut up and accept defeat. Bill 2491 was the most irresponsible piece of legislation in the history of Kauai and people like you supported it. Loosers and Hooser.

Anonymous said...

I have said this before: What is the planning department doing all day other than collecting salaries and benefits?

Certainly not enforcement; so any new law will be useless too.

When are they going to shut down the Kauai retreat center on AG land in Waipake? The owner does not live there and I repeat it is on AG land!!!!

Anonymous said...

Why is using county letterhead a litmus test? Whether they are using county letterhead or not to lobby for personal interests, isn't the key issue the mere fact of the lobbying itself? Whether or not they are using county letterhead, every audience they are lobbying in front of knows who they are, so why is the issue of using county letterhead so distinctive?

Joan Conrow said...

To 6:40:

In this instance, the use of county letterhead shows that county materials and staff time — public resources — are being used to advance Hooser's private causes. The letterhead also gives the correspondence an official veneer that it doesn't legitimately have, especially when Hooser directs follow up questions to his "staff" and provides the Council Services number.

This is not county business, and it shouldn't be conducted as such.

Anonymous said...

The county Kauai only got their HR dept just a few years ago so you people should know that things work very slowly here on this rock. It's called JOB security!

DINKYDAO: Hooser is proposing that we regulate the lobbyists? Will it apply to himself? That's a joke with his affiliation to HAPA and CFS. He's got no clue to reality.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 10:52 am

lawaibob: While they're at it, they should ban lobbyists from becoming council members - this comment is aimed squarely at current and former employees of the west side pesticide companies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 9:46 am

tunataxi: It's about time !

Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 8:07 am

Truth Be Known
Truth Be Known: Thank you Gary for attempting to rein in the inducements that are used to influence our representatives. This has been going on far too long on our island and it amounts to "legal bribery" by the major corporations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 6:45 am

obboy13: “Right now, there’s no way to know who is a lobbyist and who isn’t,” Hooser said. “There’s no list, there’s no way to know except to ask them.”

Uh Gary, the lobbyist is going to be the one offering you money or favors in return for your vote. If you can't recognize one by now, it's time to find a new line of work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 6:22 am

Anonymous said...

Council Member disclosure: All council members be required to publicly disclose all past and current affiliations to any for profit and non profit entities, and if they hold positions in any of these entities, and what these positions are or were.

It is important for the public to be aware of these affiliations when council members are considering legislation on the county level.

Anonymous said...

Pretend to do something for the people. So good in the even years. Look over here not under the rug.