Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oahu Planning Commission Meeting August 24, 2011 to Discuss Vacation Rental Controversy

Oahu Ocean Scene, photos by Dianne Smith

Conflict simmers in Oahu ahead of the Planning Commission's Public Hearing 10 am. - 2 pm. on Wednesday, August 24th., continuing discussion on a controversial bill designed to root out vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods. The Department of Planning & Permitting asked the Planning Commission to approve ordinances that will improve the laws regarding the enforcement of "illegal" visitor accommodations in residential neighborhoods, which has inflamed the community. Many mom and pop businesses offer accommodations to Hawaiian visitors, but they have no legal process to do so and have been crying out for one. Permits have generally been denied since 1989.

"Oahu residents have the right to live in residential neighborhoods without the proliferation of illegal visitor accommodations operating next to their homes," says KIK (Keep It Kailua). "It’s time the City enforced the law!" However, their rhetoric flies in the face of travel industry demand, tourist preferences, and the rights of fellow citizens in Hawaii to earn a living.

Oahu Cottage Rentals, Condos and B&B's

Makaha Valley, Oahu
KIK further states, "Oahu’s residential communities have been plagued by illegal vacation rentals operating in residentially zoned areas. These illegal businesses, including transient vacation units (TVU’s) and bed & breakfast lodges (B&B’s), reduce the inventory of long-term housing for local residents and adversely alter the character and social fabric of residential neighborhoods. They take revenue away from properly licensed hotels in properly zoned areas such as Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay and compromise neighborhood security watch programs. These illegal vacation rentals also compromise Hawaii’s sexual predator laws and negatively impact neighboring property values."

The City Administration and the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) proposed the Bill to Amend #21 and put it on the fast track for passage. Despite their haste, the word still spread among the citizens of Hawaii, galvanizing many to oppose it. A law that would have such widespread effects would need to be fully explored among the people, and not quickly instituted.

The law would identify illegal commercial visitor accommodations located in residential-zoned neighborhoods by requiring all B&B lodges and vacation rentals (TVU) to include a city-issued certificate number and their address in all of their advertisements. Operations that fail to do so will be issued warnings and ultimately expensive fines. Vacation rentals and B&B lodges in residential and resort zoning that already have grandfathered legal permits would not be negatively impacted, but these are few and far between. Almost no new permits have been issued since 1989 though the number of travelers to Oahu has exploded. There are not enough vacation rentals to accommodate the demand.

Hawaii Beach Cottage Rentals Under Fire

Stu Simmons, leader of KIK, presses to have the last word at the upcoming meeting. To prepare for the critical meeting, his organization has circulated their Talking Points:
  • The issue of allowing vacation rentals and B&B lodges in residential-only zoning was resolved in 1989 and again in 2010. The verdict is vacation rentals and B&B lodges belong only in resort zoning and are non-conforming is residential-only zoning. NOW the City needs to enforce the law and the illegal operators need to be cited.
  • The majority of those who oppose the bill do so because they are currently breaking the law and they know the bill will be effective in enforcing the law.
  • We should not allow a special interest group of illegal vacation rental owners dictate our zoning laws so that they can exploit our neighborhoods.
  • Our zoning laws should be upheld and the proposed bill will simply and efficiently help the DPP in enforcing the law.
  • Having the DPP inspectors examine the internet for locating and citing illegal transient rentals in place of on-site inspections will save the City money.
  • Allowing illegal visitor accommodations to prosper and profit with minimal enforcement effort is a violation of our trust in our Government to uphold the law for all citizens.
  • The simple requirement of including a city-issued certificate number and their address in all vacation rental advertisements is fair and reasonable. Other license practitioners such as contractors already follow a similar requirement. Including the address in advertisements for a most businesses is a normal business practice. Both White and Yellow Pages are a good example. On the internet, over 95% of the residential properties listed for sale will include their address in their advertised listings.
  • The Planning Commission, Fourteen of the most impacted Oahu Neighborhood Boards & Community Associations and the City Council all concluded the proliferation of transient accommodations are not appropriate for residential neighborhoods and their future growth should occur in resort zoning.

Every one of the talking points has been countered by the Hawaii Vacation Rentals Owners Association (HVROA), especially the assertion that the issue was resolved in 1989 and 2010. The issues continue to boil because they were and still are unresolved to the majority of citizens.
According to Hawaii Sunshine-open meeting laws, new voices can testify at the meeting, which will be held in the Mission Memorial Hearings Room, 550 South King Street, Honolulu. Anyone may submit written testimony by fax (808)768-6743 or by e-mailing info@honoluludpp.org.




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