Hawaii County council advances short-term rental regulation Bill 108

Hawaii: The Hawaii County council planning committee has voted in favour of advancing short-term rental regulation Bill 108 to two final council votes.

If passed in its current form, the bill will block new non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, limit where they can operate, and require registration with the planning department.

The state does not have city governing bodies, so legislation implemented by Hawaii County council governs the island.

The bill permits non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in resort-hotel districts, general commercial districts, village commercial districts, residential and commercial districts within the general plan resort, and multifamily districts for homes within condominium properties.

Short-term rentals are not permitted in agricultural zones due to a state law regarding overnight accommodations in these areas.

An earlier draft of the bill would have allowed short-term rentals in the downtown Hilo commercial district, but North Kona councilwoman Karen Eoff said this district was removed due to a legal language technicality, and the council will reintroduce it through later legislation.

The bill also calls for strict registration requirements, with those who operate a short-term rental before the ordinance being allowed to register, and they must initiate the registration within 180 days of the ordinance’s effective date.

For short-term rentals operating before the ordinance’s effective date in non-permitted zones, owners would be required to obtain a nonconforming use certificate (NUC) to remain in operation.

Other registration requirements include proof that all property taxes are paid in full, tax licences are up-to-date, and they must have rooms to rent and sufficient parking space available. Owners must be contactable at all times, be able to respond to an issue at the home within three hours, and include registration numbers in all advertising.

Members of the public who supported the bill cited issues with noise, parking, and other guest nuisance disturbances as reasons for their case.

Opponents of the bill argued that it would hit the Kona and Puna districts the hardest, where much of the land is zoned for agriculture. They also pointed to the effect of the Kīlauea volcano eruption earlier this year that wiped out many of the vacation rental homes in Puna and rendered much of the farmland unusable for agricultural use.

Eoff said the bill was not a ban and was only a starting point for legislation: “We are trying to protect neighbourhoods and balance everybody’s needs.”

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara was the only committee member to vote against moving the bill forward.
She said: “We need to come into modern times. These laws were made for plantation days.”

She called for changes to the state law before advancing the bill and she questioned how the county would address short-term rental properties following natural disasters.

Eoff said the bill would include the chance for owners with farmland properties to apply for an NUC if the lot was created prior to 1976.

Michael Yee, Hawaii County’s planning department director, said: “This is part one—there will need to be a part two. We’re trying to bite off what we can at the county level for now.

“There are areas that should be considered—how we address that we’ll have to be careful about,” he added.

Mayor Harry Kim argued in favour of the bill, saying: “This is about zoning for the island, which is needed. We cannot allow our businesses to go on without regulation.”

The next council meeting is scheduled for 2 November in Hilo, when the next discussion on the bill could take place.

More than 1.7 million travellers reportedly visited the Hawaii in 2017, a 13.6 per cent increase over 2016, and spent $2.39 billion. More than 230,000 island visitors stayed in more than 600 vacation rental homes on the island.