Council panel OKs bill to cut Paia and Haiku short-term rentals to 65

Second measure would prohibit future rentals from abutting the shore

A Maui County Council committee passed out two bills Thursday that would trim the number of permitted short-term rentals in Paia and Haiku to 65 and prohibit future rentals from abutting the shoreline.

The Planning Committee voted 7-0 to make the changes to the Maui County Code and the Paia-Haiku Community Plan, which had been at odds over short-term rentals since 2012. Both bills now head to the full council for approval.

When the council passed a law allowing short-term rentals in 2012, the Paia-Haiku area was given a rental cap of 88. The problem was that the Paia-Haiku Community Plan, adopted in 1995, doesn’t allow for short-term rentals.

“The department at that time seemed to believe that we had a superseding policy directive from the council to proceed with STRHs in Paia-Haiku,” administrative planning officer David Raatz said Thursday. “But that position was reconsidered.”

Committee Chairwoman Kelly King said that 48 short-term rentals have been permitted in the Paia-Haiku area thus far, with 12 in the pipeline, according to the department. The most recent records available on the county website also show that there are 43 permitted bed-and-breakfasts in the Paia-Haiku area.

The Paia-Haiku Community Plan does allow for bed-and-breakfast operations, which are different from short-term rentals in that the owner of a bed-and-breakfast must live on site.

In July 2017, the Maui Planning Commission debated how to reconcile the differences between the community plan and the code. The following month, the department held meetings with Paia and Haiku residents.

“The consensus view from the community was not to outright prohibit STRHs,” Raatz said. “Instead, there was more of a concern about avoiding the proliferation of this use along the shoreline.”

Thus, Raatz said, the two bills before the committee would amend both documents to allow short-term rentals in the region “so long as they don’t abut the shoreline.”

However, the ongoing debate over how to resolve the two documents has left some residents in limbo.

Testifier Andrew Grier said he applied for a short-term rental permit in the Paia-Haiku district in February. He paid for a consultant and private home inspector, updated his electrical and plumbing and passed an inspection in July. However, he then got a notice that there had been a county policy change and that applications were no longer being approved.

“It seemed to me kind of like the goal posts had been moved on me at the last minute,” Grier said. “I’ve spent thousands of dollars on this, and I’ve lost at least three months of income. I would ask that the council approve this bill and don’t leave people like myself out in the cold for just trying to follow the rules.”

Raatz said the department is still accepting applications for the Paia-Haiku area but is not processing them “until we get the council’s guidance on how to proceed.”

“Basically, we’re holding the application process in abeyance at the moment,” he said.

Council members were concerned that this wasn’t fair to applicants who had put in the money and effort to operate legally.

“In other areas of the law where there’s conflict, they don’t stop the cases,” Council Member Don Guzman said. “They just proceed with what is the existing law. . . . So I don’t understand the department’s cease-and-desist on pending applications.”

Council Chairman Mike White believed that if the committee didn’t vote on the bills Thursday, it would not be doing its job “for the people who are respecting the law, and we’re simply leaving the field open for those that are flagrantly avoiding obeying the laws.”

To accommodate applicants like Grier, Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Hopper suggested that the council amend the bills to say that the department would continue to process “applications that were deemed complete” prior to the new laws going into effect.

“That would allow anyone who submitted a completed application to have their application processed under the standards that were in place at the time that they submitted their application,” Hopper explained.

The committee also added a provision that “existing short-term rental home permits shall remain valid and shall be eligible for renewal under the standards in effect prior to the enactment of this ordinance at the option of the permitee.”

White, who holds the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency seat, also suggested paring down the permitted short-term rentals in the area to 65. The county code allows 88 short-term rentals and 88 bed-and-breakfasts in the Paia-Haiku area, which caused some confusion among council members.

“Quite honestly, I don’t think I’m the only one in this room that thought that the caps were for both (in total),” White said. “At this point, I’m OK with reducing the cap on the short-term rentals a bit.”

Raatz said he believed the reduced number would still cover “all existing permits and those in the pipeline.”

The committee unanimously voted to approve the change.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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