Bill to slice short-term rental permit caps advances

Planning Department: About half of existing permits are not residents

A sign alerts neighbors to a short-term rental home application in Kihei in March 2020. The Maui County Council is considering a bill that would reduce the short-term rental permit cap for all community plan areas of Maui. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

After hearing about two hours of mixed testimony, the Maui County Council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee gave the green light to a bill that would cut the amount of short-term rental home permits allowed on Maui.

There are approximately 217 permitted short-term rental home operations in the county, according to the Planning Department. About 50 percent of those permits belong to out-of-state residents.

“Our community desperately needs affordable housing, as stated prior, when we have people purchasing our short inventory of housing and we’re including them in our income levels for East Maui . . . it doesn’t truly represent our rural community,” Council Member Shane Sinenci said before the vote on July 1. “This is why we are working at all levels to address the problem, and this is one of them.”

The council committee in an 8-0 vote, with Council Member Mike Molina excused, recommended approval for the measure to reduce permits from 30 to 15 for Hana, from 88 to 50 for West Maui, from 100 to 46 for Kihei-Makena, from 40 to 14 for Makawao-Pukalani-Kula, from 55 to 47 for Paia-Haiku and from 36 to six for Wailuku-Kahului. The bill will now head to council for first reading.

Molokai has a cap of zero short-term vacation rental permits, and Lanai’s cap, which is 19, will be addressed at an upcoming Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee meeting.

Under the bill, everyone who had a permit or submitted a complete application before July 2, 2021, would remain status quo, but any new applications submitted after July 2, 2021, would be subject to the new caps.

Planning Director Michele McLean said Wednesday that the department is reviewing its existing, pending and renewal permits to make sure that any application received through July 1 will be counted.

“If any minor adjustments to the numbers need to be made before first reading, we will coordinate with the council to provide them the final updated numbers,” she said.

During the meeting, McLean presented short-term rental numbers by community plan areas. As of last month, existing permits, pending renewals and pending new permits totaled by community were: Hana, 27; Kihei-Makena, 46; Makawao-Pukalani-Kula, 14; Paia-Haiku, 47; Wailuku-Kahului, six; West Maui, 60; and Lanai, 17.

“Now we are dealing with RVs and pop-up homes that we are trying to get a handle on,” McLean said. “If the council wants to start restricting down the types of (visitor) accommodations, this is one piece of the puzzle. There are other pieces, too.”

She said that the county is on the verge of signing agreements with Airbnb and Expedia, which owns VRBO, HomeAway and other platforms, and they would require rentals to list tax map key numbers. Currently, the county’s enforcement contractor peruses online ads and follows TMK numbers, which is how permitted operations are tracked.

Testimony from about 20 people during the meeting was mixed and extended nearly two hours.

Residents opposed to short-term rentals said that the operations alter the fabric of the community, create visitor traffic in smaller rural areas not zoned for hotels and don’t have owners living on-site to handle unwanted incidents.

“We find that these short-term rentals are invading our local and residential neighborhoods, ruining our residents’ quality of life,” said Haiku resident Maile Magalianes, who said she’s grown up on the north shore of Maui and has seen the area drastically change due to higher visitor numbers. “Neighbor relationships are important to building strong communities and that cannot be achieved if our neighbors are moving in and out on short-term leases.”

Others, who own, operate or support short-term rentals testified that the units pay high property taxes and provide a way for residents or previous residents to pay the mortgage on homes. They also said the permits are heavily vetted by the county and require neighbor approval.

“You need to have a way for the good guys to get through,” Maui resident Tom Croly said.

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


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