Big Island panel advances vacation rental regulations

HILO — A Big Island panel has advanced a measure that would prohibit short-term vacation rentals in residential and agricultural zones.

The Hawaii County Council Planning Committee approved the measure’s fifth draft Tuesday after the ordinance has been in the works for over a year, West Hawaii Today reported .

The measure allows rentals in hotel and resort zones as well as commercial districts. Existing rentals in prohibited areas would be grandfathered in after the owners obtain nonconforming use certificates .

“This bill was in no way meant to ban vacation rentals but to protect neighborhoods,” Councilwoman Karen Eoff said. “We do have to start somewhere; we’re the only county in the state that doesn’t have regulations.”

All vacation rentals would be required to register with the county and show that taxes are paid. The measure only applies to short-term rentals where owners do not live on site.

Mayor Harry Kim said the rentals should have been regulated long ago, and it’s “no different from regulating any other business.”

“This is about zoning for the island, which is needed,” Kim said. “We cannot allow our businesses to go on without regulation.”

Airbnb, which lists residences or rooms for short-term rental, supports the measure.

“We think you’ve struck a pretty fair middle path,” Matt Middlebrook, the company’s public policy manager in Hawaii, told the panel.

Middlebrook recommended the county allow for new nonconforming use permits when people drop out of the program.

Some vacation rental owners told the committee that the measure is too onerous and would harm the industry.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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