Homestay ordinance debate continues

LIHUE — Elizabeth Barton said she’s not getting rich opening her home to visitors who want to enjoy the beauty of Kauai without checking into a hotel. It supplements her income and attracts a unique clientele who support the local economy.

David O’Rourke said loud, late-night partying from vacationers staying next to his Lihue residence at homestays have disrupted his neighborhood’s quiet setting and prompted him to call the police.

Barton and O’Rourke spoke during a public hearing Wednesday. Both represent opposing sides of an issue under consideration by the Kauai County Council: Whether to allow property owners who live outside the county’s four Visitor Designation Areas to open their homes to tourists.

For the past several months, the council has been considering an amendment to the homestay ordinance. If approved, it would limit bed and breakfast operations, also known as homestays, to more densely populated Visitor Designation Areas.

Barton said complaints about homestays are unfair and called it ironic that travelers who stay in vacation rentals without homeowners present would not be subjected to the homestay restrictions.

“There are people all over the island with vacation rentals that are permitted outside the Visitor Designation Areas,” she said. “They are totally unsupervised and it is them who are causing the noise, traffic and complaints.”

Karen Diamond of Lihue said amendments to the homestay ordinance are necessary because the business practice disrupts quality of life for many Kauai residents.

Homestay uses, she said, “have caused many areas to be inundated with transient uses and because of that many of these areas have lost their neighborhood character. To allow those uses to continue would be irresponsible.”

Diamond added, “people who bought into residential area expected them to be used as residential areas.”

But Ameila Gray, who lives on the island’s east side and has operated homestays for eight years, said amending the ordinance would amount to discrimination.

“You’re restricting people who want to share their homes but can’t afford to live in these (higher income) areas,” she said. “Homesharing used to be a protected right of personal property. These proposed regulations and restrictions are unrealistic and unfair.”

Gray added the homestay restrictions would adversely impact the economy and the amendment would simply drive those uses “underground.” Much of Kapaa’s economy depends on homestays, she said.

The council’s discussion on the proposed homestay ordinance amendment will continue next week during its regular meeting Wednesday.

Public comment will be accepted. A recommendation is expected to be forwarded to the mayor for consideration later this month.

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