Although businessman Michael Baskin and his associates had short-term rental permits revoked last year for two short-term rental properties in Paia, he continues to operate them, despite an order to stop operations as of Jan. 26, according to a complaint filed Friday in 2nd Circuit Court.
The permits were revoked Nov. 27 for the Paia Pad at 40 Ae Place and for the Paia Place at 95B Hana Highway. The county's notice of revocation allowed Baskin, the owner of the Paia Inn Hotel, and others listed as the property owners until Jan. 26 to stop operations because of violations of special management area rules, the zoning code and permit conditions.
Now, "based upon information and belief, it appears that as of the date of this filing of the complaint herein (Friday), defendants continue to operate short-term rental homes on the subject properties, notwithstanding that the permits required by the County of Maui have been revoked," says the complaint signed by Deputy Corporation Counsel Mary Blaine Johnston.
Paia businessman Michael Baskin stands outside one of his Paia vacation rentals in December while responding to complaints that led to Maui County revoking permits for two vacation rental properties. Now, the county has filed a complaint seeking a court order for Baskin and other property owners to stop renting the accommodations to visitors.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Reached via cellphone Tuesday afternoon, Baskin said: "We have filed an appeal" of the permit revocations. And, he said he was "in discussions and working with the county at this very moment."
Later, he released a written statement via email.
"We believe that the county was in error in revoking the permits, and we have filed timely appeals," Baskin wrote. "Our use of the properties as short-term rentals is grandfathered, and we have been operating them successfully as such for many years without complaint.
"The current onslaught of violations against the Paia Inn and (short-term rental) properties was a coordinated attack motivated by competitive concerns and organized by the owners of Flatbread Restaurant and neighboring (short-term rental) owners," he wrote. "(Council Member) Mike White agreed to represent these neighbors by making several unfounded complaints on their behalf, which is in violation of the county's policy on anonymous (request for services) complaints, and repeatedly refused to meet with us despite numerous requests to do so."
White, who holds the council's Makawao-Haiku-Paia residency seat, said Tuesday evening that the request for service wasn't anonymous because he signed it after personally viewing what he determined to be violations at Baskin's properties.
"They're easy to spot," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that these were violations."
In one instance, Baskin had built "right up to a neighbor's fence . . . totally taking up the setback," White said.
The council member previously said neighbors asked him to intervene because they felt "some degree of intimidation" from Baskin. He said he found that the neighbors' concerns were valid and offered to file a request for county action on May 30.
Baskin has a "significant problem with the truth," White said Tuesday. "He can allege all he wants, but the bottom line is that I felt very strongly that these residents were telling the truth."
In the November permit revocation letters for the Paia Place and Paia Pad properties, Planning Director Will Spence said there was "false and misleading" information during both application processes for the short-term rental permits.
For example, in the case of the Paia Place property, three bedrooms were permitted but there were an additional six rooms, identified for other uses in permit applications, that were being used for visitor accommodations.
According to the notice of revocation, a room described as an "office" in permit applications is being advertised for rent as a "bedroom"; a "living room" as a "junior suite"; a "study" as a "second bedroom"; a converted garage area referred to as an "office" as a "junior suite"; and two "storage rooms" as "deluxe rooms."
Baskin has disputed the "false and misleading" charge.
Now, according to Baskin's emailed statement Tuesday, many of the alleged violations against the properties "were, in fact, simple corrections, which were timely made prior to the violations being issued. Moreover, many of the allegations against us relate to work that we simply did not do."
"We have received strong support from the Paia community and have received over 50 letters from business owners and residents of Paia since the (Dec. 22) article in The Maui News ran, all showing their support for the Paia Inn," Baskin wrote.
In the brief phone conversation, Baskin did not respond when asked if he was continuing to rent units at the two properties with revoked permits.
The complaint contains copies of Internet advertisements for Baskin's properties.
A copy of an Internet ad is titled "Availability Calendar Paia Inn Hotel." (Permits have not been revoked for the hotel, although as of December, there was a pending notice of violation against the hotel for failing to obtain a special management area determination of an SMA permit for grading, grubbing and excavation. That came with an initial $30,000 civil fine and a daily $10,000 fine if uncorrected.)
In an exhibit in the county's complaint, a handwritten notation next to two Paia Inn rooms identified as one-bedroom suites with a garden view shows that the rooms are located at 40 Ae Place and another luxury room is at 95B Hana Highway. Both properties are vacation rentals with revoked county permits, and dates showed that they're currently available or being used as visitor accommodations.
The complaint says that the county believes that "defendants will refuse and fail to voluntarily correct the existing violations on the property and have continued and will continue to operate short-term rentals on the properties without the necessary short-term home rental permits."
The complaint asks a 2nd Circuit judge to order Baskin and other owners from continuing to use the properties "in violation of the provisions of the Maui County Code" until they've obtained the necessary permits.
The county also wants a judge to rule that Baskin and his associates are in violation of special management area rules, the Maui County Code and the conditions of short-term rental home permits.
Aside from Baskin, other defendants include Seashore Properties LLC, the Paia Pad Trust, Paia Pad LLC, the Paia Place Trust, Paia Place LLC, Naomi Hillinger and Walter Hillinger.
Late last year, Baskin faced $119,000 in civil fines involving five properties and 26 notices of violations. Baskin has appealed the violations and fines.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.