Published in The Maui News, January 31, 2016
By DON COUCH, for The Maui News
The Maui County Council’s Planning Committee reconvenes on Thursday at 9 a.m. to continue discussion on the requirements and permitting procedures for short-term rental homes.
The council has established two types of visitor accommodations that allow local residents to participate in the visitor industry while also preserving residential character and giving visitors alternatives to big hotels.
In a bed-and-breakfast home, or B&B, the lodging units and owner’s residence are on the same property.
For a short-term rental home, or STRH, a manager must be accessible at all times and must comply with an array of regulations designed to ensure short-term rental homes are limited both in their number and in their community impact. For instance, short-term rental home use is permitted in no more than two single-family dwelling units per limit, and each community plan area on Maui has a cap on the number of short-term rental home permits.
With the increasing popularity of websites such as Airbnb and VRBO, it’s easy to advertise visitor accommodations. As a result, unpermitted vacation rentals are proliferating. Over the past two years alone, the county has issued thousands of warning notices to illegal operators.
Illegal vacation rentals are obviously unfair to legitimate short-term rental home operators who work hard to obtain permits and comply with the law. The illegal operations also threaten the character of the neighborhoods where they are located and cause the state and county to lose tax revenue.
In addition to enforcement action by the Planning Department, legislative action by the council can help.
The short-term rental home law, Chapter 19.65 of the Maui County Code, needs to be improved to promote compliance. So, with advice from the Planning Department, the planning commissions and concerned members of the public, the committee has been working on revisions to Chapter 19.65 throughout this term.
The current version of the bill being discussed in committee includes these elements:
- Clarifying that short-term rental home use can be permitted in a dwelling that is considered “accessory” to a single-family residence.
- Affirming that the existence of advertising and online reviews of visitor accommodations is evidence of operation.
- Allowing owners of single-family homes within the apartment zoning district to obtain short-term rental home permits.
Chapter 19.65 states: “Operating without a permit shall result in a property owner being ineligible to apply for a permit for five years.” The committee is considering whether the length of this ban should be amended.
The committee is also reviewing the short-term rental home permit caps established in 19.65.030(R) of the Maui County Code. The caps range from 36 in Wailuku-Kahului to 100 in Kihei-Makena.
While oral testimony is already closed for Thursday’s meeting, comments may still be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, referencing PC-10.
Mahalo to everyone who is working with the Planning Committee to enhance our county’s economy and quality of life.
* Don Couch is chair of the council’s Planning Committee. He holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.