Vacation rental controversy continueson

Property owners warned by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to halt unpermitted vacation rental operations on state lands in Ha‘ena by summer have been given a reprieve by the same agency.

Gary Bart, a California resident, said yesterday that he and 13 other property owners received written approval in July from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to operate until Dec. 31.

“We have been working very diligently with the state to try to find an amicable solution,” Bart said in a telephone interview. “We are trying to do this amicably.”

It is not known if two other property owners who had also been previously warned by DLNR to cease operations by June 30 had also reached the same agreement with the state agency.

DLNR spokesman Sam Lemmo said the property owners had asked for the extension to accommodate their visitor bookings.

He said the DLNR had previously considered granting the extension as long as the property owners stopped unauthorized vacation rental uses by Dec. 31.

Lemmo said the proposal for the extension was sent to Randy Vitousek, a Big Island attorney representing 14 of the 16 owners. Whether the other two property owners sought legal representation is not known.

Vitousek declined to comment on the latest development in the case and referred media inquiries to Gary Stice of O‘ahu, apparently one of his clients. Stice was unavailable for comment Friday.

As far as Bart knows, none of the 14 represented by Vitousek has filed any lawsuits in 5th Circuit Court to challenge the DLNR’s mandate.

Lemmo said DLNR could enforce the passed June 30 deadline, but has decided to remain patient on the matter.

“Based on the record I see, there hasn’t been any kind of resolution of the issue,” he said. “We are giving them a little time.”

Bart said he and the other 13 property owners hope to work out some option if the state insists on standing by the Dec. 31 deadline.

“We hope by that time, we can work out a solution,” Bart said. “We are hoping there can be some condition where we may be able to continue. We are ever hopeful sound minds can come to a resolution of the problem.”

Most of the clients represented by Vitousek are from California and Hawai‘i, with two from Hanalei and one from Koloa.

Attempts to reach the Kaua‘i owners for comment have unsuccessful.

The DLNR issued notices in March to the property owners to halt the use of vacation rentals on state conservation lands in Ha‘ena it manages, or face sanctions, including hefty fines.

The DLNR based its actions on an interpretation of the Conservation District Use Application permit issued to property owners, saying homes located on the state conservation land could not be used for rental or other commercial purposes.

The property owners secured the CDUA permits before securing county approval to build their home. Some of the state permits go back 20 years ago and more.

Stice, who has held a CDUA permit for more than 20 years, also has said the permit conditions are vague on whether homes can be used commercially.

Stice has said he was under the impression the lease agreement prevented the opening of a store on the conservation lands. That type of interpretation could be an inherent part of an lawsuit against the state.


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