Crystal Young worries about a proposed hotel on city land in Haleiwa after witnessing resort sprawl in her nearby Sunset Beach neighborhood, where there is little park space and dozens of residential houses cater to visitors.
Driving through an area that once had a row of rural homes, Young points out fenced two-story houses renting for thousands of dollars a month, many unoccupied but operating as unpermitted vacation rentals.
“There was a whole lot of locals, hundreds … living there,” she said. “Now you have all those homeless people – and then you have those empty houses. It doesn’t seem right.”
As developer D.G. “Andy” Anderson proposes buying 3.2 acres of city land for a Haleiwa hotel, some residents are complaining about current traffic congestion, the lack of recreational space and the waves of illegal vacation houses raising rents and pushing out rural residents.
North Shore Neighborhood Board member Kathleen Pahinui said in addition to the noise from tourists and the lack of rentals for residents, illegal vacation houses artificially raise taxes for homeowners.
“They don’t care about the property taxes because in one week of rentals, they’ve got it covered,” Pahinui said. “I just think it’s wrong that the city has not enforced the zoning rules. The neighborhoods are no longer neighborhoods. …
“They’re basically turning it into a mini-resort area.”
Maui County has gotten tough with illegal vacation rentals.
Aware of the growing number of illegal rentals intruding into residential and agricultural areas, the county Planning Department began aggressively enforcing zoning laws in early 2007 and shut down a number of operators.
Deputy Planning Director Ann Cua said the department gave illegal operators a reasonable time to close.
Later, in January 2009, in an attempt to bring vacation rentals into compliance, the Maui Council passed an ordinance allowing a limited number of bed-and-breakfasts to operate in various areas.
Since then some 33 rentals have received permits, including coastal residences in Paia and Kuau.
Former Kuau store manager Leona Nomura said she supports enforcement of zoning laws because neighborhood beaches have become crowded with visitors. She said people have been treating residences as vacation investments, then complaining when they are told to shut down.
“They’re trying to get laws to fit their needs,” she said. “They’re all about buying and selling.”
Cua said while there are still many illegal vacation rentals, the new ordinance has provided a path for those homeowners who want to legally operate their properties as B&Bs.
LIHUE>> A Kauai County Council bill that would legalize hundreds of existing vacation rentals on agricultural lands is gaining ground.
The new bill received a county Planning Commission stamp of approval in April. It sailed through a first hearing at the county council last month.
The bill proposed by Councilman Tim Bynum would give vacation rentals operating on land zoned for agriculture an opportunity to apply for a permit.
The vacation rentals would have to have been operating before March 7, 2008 to qualify.
Two years ago, Kauai passed a law creating a path for vacation rental owners to legalize their operations by applying for permits.
But this measure specifically excluded those operating on agriculture land.