Lihue – “The Planning Department’s tactics are bullying tactics.”
That comment from Greg Allen gave voice to the anger and frustration many B&B operators are feeling after the county sent cease-and-desist letters telling them they had two weeks to shut down or risk facing $10,000-a-day fines.
His comment came at the start of a public hearing the Kauai County Council held on Tuesday afternoon so members of the public could offer their thoughts on a proposal the council is considering that would strengthen the definition of homestays (otherwise known as bed-and-breakfasts or B&Bs) to ensure an owner actually lives onsite and would also limit the number of B&B permit applications that can be reviewed to no more than 10 per year.
“Why are the owners of the bed-and-breakfasts crying about this whole permitting?” resident Julie Souza asked. “Why do they think they are above the law?”
Opinions were diverse and there was no clear consensus among those who turned out for the hearing, crowding the council chambers. Comments went back and forth for about three hours and councilmembers listened to residents on all sides of the issue.
Much of the conversation focused on B&Bs located on land zoned for agricultural use, which requires an additional permit on top of the use permit already required by the county to run a B&B.
David Breen said the steady income from running a B&B helps make agriculture viable.
“The steady income from a homestay will allow farmers the ability to keep producing quality food for Kauai and to ride out the rough times when climate and market fluctuations limit our ability to sustain our farm income,” Breen said.
Anne Punohu said she doesn’t have a problem with homestays on agricultural land if it remains limited to people who are legitimately farmers, but she doesn’t believe that will be the case.
“We all know that these issues do not stay contained,” Punohu said. “They are like fires that blow all over our island and they are becoming real problems.”
Punohu asked that no B&Bs be allowed in Hanalei, saying the North Shore cannot support any more, although she believes they may be OK in other areas.
That point was also made by Barbara Robeson and Caren Diamond, who urged the council to not allow any additional B&Bs in the Hanalei District, saying it is already overloaded with legal and illegal TVRs, as well as unpermitted B&Bs.
According to numbers provided to the council by Robeson and Diamond, the percentage of rental units advertised in the Hanalei area is as high as those in the legally designated Visitor Destination Areas. Peter Eacott doesn’t operate a B&B, but he said capping the number of permit applications that can be reviewed to 10 does not make sense.
“For the application process to be restricted to 10 people to me sounds totally absurd,” Eacott said.
One recurring theme was that residents wanted to know why the council has not intervened, prompting several councilmembers to reiterate throughout the meeting the county charter prohibits the council from ordering a department to do anything, as that falls under the mayor’s authority.
Councilman Gary Hooser noted no one showed up to complain about noise or cars.
“I was struck by the lack of – there is no one here that I remember that complained about noise next door or complained about too many cars,” Hooser said.
Alexis Boilini, who owns Marjorie’s Kauai Inn Bed and Breakfast, said she was glad to be able to meet with councilmembers to discuss this issue.
“I think our concerns were heard, we met one-on-one with a lot of them which we haven’t done before today,” Boilini said. “I think they want to do something fair.”
The council will now discuss the proposed changes in Bill 2587 in committee before making a final decision later.