LIHUE — Councilman Gary Hooser believes the Planning Department overreacted when it issued cease and desist orders to homestay operations operating outside the Visitor Destination Area.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” Hooser said. “If it’s parking, we’ll deal with parking. If it’s noise, we’ll deal with noise. But we can’t solve the problem with a sledge hammer because that will hurt people and ruin their lives.”
In an effort to crack down on Transient Vacation Rentals, or TVRs, the Planning Department in 2013 started issuing cease and desist orders to operations outside the designated Visitor Destination Area, or VDAs.
The process resulted in several B&Bs being forced out of business. Some are in contested case hearings.
In March, a bill that proposed restricting homestay operations to VDAs was introduced to the Kauai County Council.
That bill, which would allow no more than 10 homestay applications on the island, was approved 4-3 by the council on Wednesday.
Councilman Mason Chock, Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro and KipuKai Kuali’i voted to approve the bill.
“This is a good first step to get things in control,” Chock said. “The very least we can do is create parameters so we can more easily administrate.”
Kaneshiro added: “We set future policy, and our decision should be based on an islandwide policy. I do believe homestays should be restricted to VDAs.”
Council members JoAnn Yukimura, Hooser and Mel Rapozo voted no.
During the discussion, Yukimura proposed an amendment that would protect a class of homestay operators who are outside the VDA, but have been in business for several years.
As part of the amendment, those long-standing operators would be required to show they have been paying the General Excise and Transient Accommodation taxes, and prove their application to the Planning Commission was completed by Dec. 31, 2015.
There are nearly 10 operations that would, in effect, be grandfathered in under the amendment.
But Ka’aina Hull, deputy planning director, said the department would not support the amendment and would recommend the mayor veto it.
“Generally, we don’t craft legislation that is specific for eight to nine people,” Hull said.
Hull believes there are other homestay operations out there and if an exception is made for a few, it would open the floodgate for everyone to seek special treatment.
The department is trying to avoid hundreds of B&Bs being grandfathered into the new system, like TVRs were a few years ago, Hull added.
But Lorna Hoff, who owns a B&B on the island, said she has the same rights as the TVR owners.
“I don’t want TVRs everywhere, but you made a mistake. B&Bs have the same right as TVRs did,” she said.
Edie Henry, another B&B owner, agreed.
“We’re just a handful of B&Bs,” she said.
The amendment was voted down, 5-2.
“I do think that in an effort to create fairness for a few, you could end up creating unfairness for the community at large,” Kuali’i said.
While Rapozo said he doesn’t agree with the way the Planning Department is moving forward, he doesn’t see any other options.
“Litigation in court is the worst way to get a resolution, but it’s clear the department is fixed on moving forward,” he said. “I don’t support it, but it’s their call.”