LIHU‘E — A contested special permit to manage a transient vacation rental that’s been in operation since the early 2000s was granted by the Planning Commission Tuesday afternoon due to exceeding the statute of limitations on processing the application.
The six-bedroom property on Kapuna Road in Waipake was initially constructed in 2001, and began being used as a retreat getaway and short-term-rental property in 2003, prior to when the county began prohibiting single-family transient vacation rentals (TVR) outside of Visitor Destination Areas.
According to attorney Joanna Zeigler, the Ferris Trust (now the Chandler-Ferris Trust) submitted all the proper paperwork for permits in 2010. The Planning Department rejected this application, claiming that 75% of the CPR, condominium property regime, owners needed to sign off for it to be processed.
The county and the trust went into years of legal proceedings, and by 2016 the Intermediate Court of Appeals remanded the case with instructions to the Planning Department to process the application. In the four years since then, the county nor the commission had acted on the application, exceeding a 120-day window.
Deputy County Attorney Matt Bracken advised the Planning Commission that the permit must be approved, but it was well within their powers to apply specific conditions.
The commission heard nearly an hour of public testimony from neighbors on Kapuna Road. Neighbors often cited noise, increased traffic and alleged retaliation and intimidation from the owners.
John Friedman, a neighbor of 14 years, submitted a seven-page letter disputing the application, bringing up COVID-19 concerns and the negative impacts of living near a TVR, like “endless, late-night interruptions to sleep, early morning awakenings to speeding cars” and guests stealing fruit off neighborhood trees.
Another Kapuna Road resident, David Carmichael, said that the TVR has “virtually no support from neighbors,” and that the neighborhood would be negatively impacted by tourists.
Prior to the meeting, neighbors came together to petition against the TVR, and presented the commission with about 40 signatures of property owners against the permits.
As late as Tuesday, some signers of the petition wrote to the commission to withdraw their signature, saying they were misled by the petition.
“By the information given on the petition, I was under the impression this was a new TVR going in,” a letter from Nathalie Jimenez, said. “I didn’t realize this was Hilary and Kirk’s TVR they have been operating for 20 years. Had that been on the petition, I would not have signed.”
Jimenez went on to say they would support “whatever decision the county makes.”
While the oral testimony at Tuesday’s meeting was largely against the TVR, several neighbors and community members wrote into the commission with positive notes.
One such letter came from Ibbie White Al-Shamma, who has lived on Kapuna Road for the last five years.
“There has been no disturbance due to noise nor any evidence of excessive traffic,” Al-Shamma wrote. “Had there been overzealous noise or disturbance, it would easily have been heard.”
The Planning Department recommended the approval, too, noting that the two-and-a-half-acre property provides enough of a buffer from neighboring properties and does not increase traffic or growth in the area. The department requested that the owner be strict, to “avoid an ‘Animal House,’” planner Mike Laureta said Tuesday.
The commission moved to apply the standard conditions that have been applied to over 60 TVRs located on state-zoned agriculture land, like limiting guests to 12 on the property, but also incorporated some conditions that took into account the testimony by neighbors, like requiring visible noise ordinance.
Dr. Judy Shabert, who lives in the neighborhood, was disappointed Tuesday.
“I think it’s a tragedy,” she said. “This is how communities break up.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.