HILO — Kohala Councilman Tim Richards said he will recuse himself from voting on a bill regulating vacation rentals until the Board of Ethics clears him of a potential conflict of interest.
Richards said Tuesday he’s filed an amended financial disclosure report to reflect the income from the vacation rental, which is on the family’s Kahua Ranch property, zoned agriculture, in Waimea and brought in between $50,000 and $100,000 last year. His original disclosure filed Jan. 31 did not list the rental income.
Richards’ Feb. 12 amended form also lists income from his veterinary practice, from Waika Land and Livestock, Clinic Pasture and for serving as a director for two other ranches.
“My family manages a vacation rental as well. So right now, I’m in the process of receiving an opinion from the Board of Ethics,” Richards said during an April 24 council Planning Committee meeting discussing the bill. “At this point, I’m going to recuse myself from any votes until I get that opinion back, but I would like to participate in the conversation because I think I have a lot to contribute to the conversation.”
The committee heard about five hours of testimony and then recessed the meeting until Tuesday after a short discussion.
Bill 108 is an attempt to prevent unhosted short-term rentals in residential and agricultural zones, while allowing them in hotel and resort zones. 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.
Hawaii is the only county not regulating short-term vacation rentals. The county estimates there are 8,000 such rentals currently operating.
The Board of Ethics is expected to take up Richards’ request for an opinion at its meeting Monday, scheduled for 10 a.m. in Hilo council chambers.
The Board of Ethics previously cleared North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, one of the sponsors of Bill 108, of a conflict after she disclosed ownership in a vacation rental in the Kailua-Kona resort district.
The board instructed her to get clearance from the council chairwoman, which she did. Like Richards, Eoff also submitted an amended financial disclosure after failing to report the rental income the first time around.
Richards’ financial disclosure for 2017 also lists income between $1,000 and $10,000 as a director on the boards of Ponoholo Ranch in Waimea and Palani Ranch in Kailua-Kona. He lists income in the same range from Kahua Ranch. Income from Clinic Pasture and Waika Land and Livestock is reported as between $10,000 and $50,000 each.
His veterinary practice brings in between $50,000 and $100,000, according to his financial disclosure.
The only real property worth more than $5,000 listed on the disclosure form is his Waimea veterinary building, valued between $100,000 and $300,000.
Richards and a sister are currently suing the trust holding the more than 4,000-acre Kahua Ranch in a family dispute over management of the property, valued at more than $120 million, according to court filings posted online by Honolulu Civil Beat in an article about the litigation underway in Oahu Circuit Court.
“Due to my and my family’s long-standing presence in the county, and in the state, I am involved in many things both in business and civically. I believe it is logical to assume that because of this and as a sitting County Councilman, from time to time things will come before us that I have knowledge of, sometimes extensively, because of my life experiences,” Richards said in an email. “Part of this is why I believe I was elected and expected to weigh in and give input on different subject matters that will come before us.”