WHT editorial: Eoff should pull short-term rental bill

Perception, as they say, is reality.

In the case of Hawaii County Councilwoman Karen Eoff, her proposed bill to regulate the rental industry here on the Big Island presents a bad look, regardless how pure the intentions.

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Eoff, who represents North Kona, proposed changes that would require vacation rentals outside of the Vacation District, the General Commercial District or Resort Nodes to apply for a certificate in order to be grandfathered in.

Eoff is a vacation unit owner herself, and she said the Resort Zone — where her Islander Inn condo is located — is the appropriate place for the rentals.

It seems straightforward. But simply put, Eoff’s Bill 108 would set up hoops others in the industry would have to jump that Eoff wouldn’t. Basically, it makes it harder on her competition.

That could have been the furthest thing from Eoff’s mind when she crafted the bill. Plenty of people think it’s an industry that needs regulating on grounds that, among other things, vacationers can turn residential neighborhoods into resort-like ruckus.

Eoff has been an outstanding councilor since she took her seat in 2012.

But it doesn’t help her cause when she was questioned by vacation rental owner Rob Guzman about her legislation posing a potential conflict of interest, an email exchange shows Eoff first denied owning the unit.

It wasn’t until she was presented with the record of her transient accommodations tax license she clarified, saying she misunderstood.

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It’s a bad look.

Eoff should pull the bill. Others on the nine-member council should suggest as much, as well. And if different short-term accommodation regulation should come up, she should recuse herself when the rest of the County Council takes it up.