Homestay bill goes to council

LIHUE — Council members voted to recommend passing a bill that aims to define and regulate homestay operations on the island during a planning committee meeting Wednesday.

Bill 2619 seeks to restrict homestays to Visitor Destination Areas and establish operation standards.

The committee also voted 5-1 against an amendment to the bill presented by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

The amendment takes into consideration homestays that have been operating outside of VDAs, but have been operating in good faith for several years.

There are nine operations that have been trying to do everything that is required to operate legally, she said.

“The present process isn’t treating a certain class fairly,” she said. “It’s a terrible injustice that people have not been able to get permits, whereas others have been able to do so. The law should not be creating this kind of injustice.”

A few years ago, transient vacation rental operations were able to operate by being grandfathered in. Ka’aina Hull, deputy planning director, said that was because TVRs don’t require a use permit.

During the meeting, Lorna Hoff, a local B&B owner, said she was issued a cease and desist order in 2015. As part of the order, she was told to stop operations within 14 days.

The majority of the homeowners were denied permits because they could not prove they lived on the same site as the operation, Hull said. Others were denied because the area has become “inundated with transient accommodation uses,” he said.

The permit process is about compatibility with the area, Hull added.

Hoff said what happened to her business and others is inexcusable.

“Operations and businesses that have been around for decades were suppose to close in 14 days, with no prior notice,” she said.

It is people like Hoff the proposed amendment will help, Yukimura said.

“It’s trying to describe a class on a rational basis,” she said.

But Mauna Kea Trask, county attorney, said there isn’t a rational basis for the class.

“I think what we’re trying to do is find a way to allow Ms. Hoff and Ms Boilini to continue,” he said.

Citing possible legal ramifications, Councilman Ross Kagawa said he would not support the amendment.

Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i also said he would not support the amendment because he believed it had not been properly vetted.

“When we produce amendments, we do homework outside the body. We spent a lot of time on this because the homework wasn’t done,” he said.

Councilman Gary Hooser said he supported the amendment as a vehicle to keep the conversation about fairness and equity alive.

“I support the intent of this amendment,” he said. “We can work on the language and continue working on the discussion.”

He made a motion to defer the amendment to council, but it was not seconded.

Councilman Mason Chock, chair of the planning committee, said he too supported the intent and would have supported a deferral.

“I’m wary about what can be done,” he said. “I appreciate it, but it needs to be properly vetted.”

During the discussion, Yukimura presented another amendment to the homestay bill limiting homestays to three rooms. The planning committee voted 5-1 to approve the bill.

Kuali’i was the only dissenting vote. Taking into consideration one of those rooms would be for the operator, he said he would rather limit it to two rooms.

The planning committee also voted 5-0 Wednesday to recommend killing another homestay bill, which would provide further operation regulations.

Both homestay bills will be up for second reading in council Wednesday.

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