84% of TVR application files incomplete

LIHUE — The vast majority of Kauai’s transient vacation rentals operating outside visitor destination areas — in residential neighborhoods and ag lands — have incomplete application files, and about a quarter of them have none of the required documents, according to county Planning Director Michael Dahilig.

And they’re still getting their annual permits renewed.

“I’m not issuing permits, I’m issuing renewals,” Dahilig told the Kauai County Council during an update of the Planning Department’s latest efforts to enforce county TVR laws.

He said that out of the 657 TVRs outside VDAs, 120 are inactive, nine would be eligible for a renewal but abandoned use, and 75 are active pending appeals on orders to cease and desist.

About 84 percent of the remaining 413 TVRs — listed as “active without issues” — have at least one missing required document in their application files, and 24 percent have no documents at all in their files, according to Dahilig.

In the last few years, the council passed a set of laws to stop growth of TVRs outside VDAs. Grandfathering permits were granted provided the owners met a strict set of requirements, including use prior to a March 7, 2008 cut-off date, general excise and transient accommodation tax receipts, and registration records among other things.

The Planning Department has been under fire from the council in the last few months for allegedly handling out several non-conforming use permits despite apparent and egregious violations. In at least one case, photographic evidence shows that a certificate has been allegedly granted to a lot without a structure on it, according to Councilman Mel Rapozo.

Dahilig said the department has sent a total of 101 cease-and-desist letters by Tuesday, and there are 35 additional cease-and-desist orders that will be sent soon. The majority of the violations are related to non-renewals.

July 31 was the deadline for 374 TVRs to request a permit renewal. However, 44 are appealing a previous year’s non-renewal notice, and 26 failed to appeal those notices, according to Dahilig.

He said that 61 out of the 75 appeals are contested case hearings where deadlines were missed.

Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung said some have missed the renewal date by two days, others by two years.

The total number of TVRs that were required to apply for a renewal by July 31 was 304, but only 269 did it, Dahilig said.

Additionally, the department is getting ready to go after four complex enforcement cases, and is on track on a goal of filing a case by the end of September, he said.

Jung said the county prevailed in court Tuesday, in an appeal case related to an application denial.

‘I hope the mayor is listening’

Several council members had concerns after learning from Dahilig that the department cannot deny permit renewals, under the guidance of the County Attorney’s Office, even though some of those permits may have been granted by the former planning director despite missing documents.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she’s is fearful the county may be prohibited legally to go back all the way to the beginning and fix issues, and that’s why she’s is so adamant for the need for good managers — the damage that bad managers do is sometimes irreversible.

“I hope the mayor is listening, because it’s not only in the area of planning, it’s in every area of county government,” she said.

Dahilig is supposed to return to the council next month for another presentation.

“I want to make it very clear to you, I’m expecting actual numbers on Oct. 9,” Chair Jay Furfaro said.

TVR permit on an empty lot

Rapozo questioned Dahilig if receiving a TVR certificate for a structure that had not yet been built was enough grounds for revocation.

Dahilig acknowledged he received photographic evidence from Rapozo and said he had not pursued that yet, explaining the department has put their resources on non-renewals.

Councilman Tim Bynum said the council passed a law on March 7, 2008, requiring certain and specific documents proving prior use in order to receive a certificate.

“This is not incompetence, this is a decision to fail to implement the law,” he said of the department’s failure to show correct documentation has been provided or even asked.

In June, the council deferred by a 4-3 vote a resolution to investigate the department’s handling of permit granting and renewal.  Rapozo, Bynum and Hooser were against the deferral, but other council members felt that going forward with the investigation could cause the records to be frozen, which would delay solving the problems.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

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