County Council Meeting on Vacation Rentals

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As discussed in a number of previous blog posts, the county of Maui has been going through a transition period on vacation rentals. The current mayor reversed the policies of previous mayors by starting a proactive enforcement policy on vacation rentals outside of the resort and hotel areas. Most non permitted rentals were shut down as of January 1, 2008.

Current county law states that vacation rentals are only to be permitted in areas zoned hotel/resort unless the owner has received a permit through the county. Market demand for rentals outside of the resorts and a broken permit process led to a steady growth in the number of non-permitted rentals. Many of those that wanted to comply with laws that applied for permits found themselves in the midst of a convoluted process that was both ineffective, costly and incredibly time consuming. Applications in process for five years or more are not unheard of with applicant expenses exceeding $10,000. Some vacation rental owners contend that they were discouraged from applying for permits by previous administrations with the broken process cited as an explanation.

The crackdown has been controversial. Businesses in communities, like Paia, Haiku, Hana and Molokai have felt the pinch as visitor numbers have gone down. These communities have limited permitted accommodations and no resort infrastructure so the effects of the ban have been more pronounced. There are also those that have been vocal in their support of the ban. They thought the rentals were growing too quickly having an adverse impact on local neighborhoods and driving up rents and property values. Limited polling on the subject suggests that those that support rentals are in the majority.

Seeking a compromise on the matter, the Maui County Council has decided to take up the issue. The county council planning commission will be meeting on the subject on Tuesday at 9:00 AM in its chambers on the 8th floor of the County Building, 200 S. High Street, Wailuku. This meeting will not be opened for public comment due to time constraints, but concerned parties are more than welcome to attend. I am hoping that the council will be able to make some headway towards a compromise. It is my opinion that the county needs accommodation alternatives outside the resorts. I also feel that the application process needs to be streamlined. That being said, rentals do need regulation. There are some neighborhoods where rentals may be inappropriate and there needs to be enforcement measures in place for rentals that may have an adverse impact on the community. We will continue to follow this issue on THE Maui Real Estate Blog and provide status updates on the county council’s efforts on the issue.

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