Vacation rentals Bill 108 amended to require neighborly rules

Turn down that radio. No loud midnight conversations on the lanai. Park your rental car on your own property.

Being a good neighbor is one of the new requirements for vacation rentals in a rewrite of Bill 108 discussed Tuesday by the County Council Planning Committee.

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“We did some cleaning up on this bill but the majority of this amendment came from public testimony. I really appreciate those providing their insights and testimonies because it’s really shaping this bill,” said Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha, a bill co-sponsor. “I know it doesn’t encapsulate everything, but we wanted to put in what people were most concerned about.”

An April 24 committee hearing brought out almost 100 testifiers, many of whom were concerned about losing the ambiance of their neighborhoods.

Council members mulled over the bill in open and executive sessions before amending the measure and then postponing it until June 4.

The good neighbor rules set quiet hours from 9 p.m.-8 a.m. During other hours, the noise cannot be louder than “would be otherwise associated with a residential area,” under the amendment. The rules must be provided to the tenant and prominently displayed in the unit.

Amendments also require the owner or designated contact person to reside in the county, provide contact information and respond to complaints within one hour of being notified.

Bill 108 applies only to unhosted rentals, where the owner does not live on site. Hosted rentals, such as auxiliary units, home sharing and bed and breakfasts are not addressed.

The measure is an attempt to prohibit unhosted short-term rentals in residential and agricultural zones, while allowing them in hotel and resort zones and commercial districts.

Existing rentals in good standing in the disallowed areas would be able to apply for a nonconforming use certificate that must be renewed annually for a $500 fee. Good standing means the property must be in use as a vacation rental, paying transient accommodations and general excise taxes prior to July 20.

The rentals in disallowed areas would have 180 days after the bill passes to apply for a nonconforming use permit. The annual certificate could be denied renewal if the vacation rental hasn’t complied with the good neighbor rules.

County planning officials say the fee is needed to pay for enforcement of the new program.

“We know the enforcement of vacation rentals are going to be a daunting, ongoing task,” said Planning Director Michael Yee.

The fee was a particular sticking point for Puna Councilwomen Eileen O’Hara and Jen Ruggles. Their districts have no hotel and resort zones and very little commercial zones, where the fee doesn’t apply.

“Everyone outside those permitted areas must pay for enforcement of the entire program,” Ruggles said. “It would be more fair if everyone doing the same business would pay the same fee. … It doesn’t seem fair that my district would have to pay for enforcement of a program that applies to the entire island.”

O’Hara said the fee could be a sliding scale based on a percentage of revenues, as reported in transient accommodations tax returns.

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“That would be a more equitable approach to this,” O’Hara said.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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