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Vacation rental bills up for first reading Friday

Measures would place hold on new permits on Lanai and prevent vacation rentals in some districts

Michele McLean Planning director

Two bills that would put a pause on new vacation rental permits on Lanai and prevent long-term rentals from becoming vacation properties in some districts are up for first reading before the Maui County Council on Friday.

The first measure calls for prohibiting the issuance of bed-and-breakfast and short-term rental home permits on Lanai until caps can be established. Right now, there are no limits for transient accommodation permits in the district.

But Planning Director Michele McLean said that a moratorium on permits for Lanai wouldn’t need to last long if the council moves quickly on related measures.

“As it turns out, we have been working with the (Lanai Planning Commission) for many months on tweaks to the B&B and STRH laws that would be applicable to Lanai, including caps,” McLean said Tuesday.

“Those bills were also passed unanimously by the LPC and will be transmitted to the council soon. If the council is able to act on them relatively quickly, then the moratorium will be short-lived.”

The Lanai Planning Commission in June unanimously recommended approval of the proposal, which was initiated by Council Member Riki Hokama, who holds the Lanai residency seat.

Permit caps are already established in the Maui County Code for each community plan district except Lanai, though the council is considering reducing most of these caps.

Currently, there are 19 short-term rental home permits and no B&B permits on Lanai, according to county documents. The bill would not apply to permits that have been issued or permit applications that are complete prior to the measure’s effective date.

Another bill that’s also up for first reading Friday would prevent long-term rental and owner-occupied properties from converting to transient vacation rental use in the apartment, light industrial and heavy industrial districts.

Supported by the Maui Vacation Rental Association, the measure is dubbed a “loophole bill” because it closes a gap in the “Minatoya” ordinances that established transient vacation rentals as a lawful use in condos.

“We understand and support this effort by the Planning Department to close the loophole for apartment-zoned properties that were previously never short-term rentals,” Jen Russo, executive director of the Maui Vacation Rental Association, said Tuesday. “We commend the Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee for working on the recommendations from our community to amend the language to include the TAT taxes clarification, and move the date to the date of the bill rather than backdating the proposed legislation.”

The “Minatoya” ordinances put into law a use that had long been allowed under a legal opinion and the county’s practice of “grandfathering,” according to McLean.

“The legal opinion and grandfathering allow a use to continue if it was lawful when it was established, even if the law has changed and the use is no longer allowed,” she said. “But the ordinances that codified this use for condos in the apartment districts went a little farther than that, and would have allowed condos that had never done TVR to convert to TVR use.”

The proposal closes the loophole and limits the use to those condos that have been doing it all along but doesn’t allow new ones to convert, McLean added.

Maui County Council’s regular meeting takes place at 9 a.m. Friday and can be attended online via BlueJeans by visiting https://maui.bluejeans.com/295235670. It also can be viewed live on Akaku, Spectrum Channel 53, or on the county website at https://mauicounty.legistar.com.

For information, visit mauicounty.us/agendas/.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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