Vacation rental denials appealed

  • A standing room only crowd fills council chambers for public testimony regarding draft rules for bill 108, the vacation rental bill, Feb. 28, 2019, at the West Hawaii Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Appeals are pouring in from vacation rental owners who were denied permits, with the county Board of Appeals agenda including 25 contested cases for its Feb. 14 meeting in Kona.

Of those, 15 are in Waimea, five in Kailua-Kona, three in Captain Cook, one in Pepeekeo and one in Pahala. That’s in addition to a Captain Cook contested hearing held in December and continued to March 13.

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“The BOA currently has 43 open cases, three of which pre-date Bill 108, and the vast majority of which concern short term vacation rentals,” Board of Appeals Administrator Ron Whitmore said Wednesday. “Four additional petitions have been received recently but not yet reviewed for completeness.”

The Planning Department typically schedules the appeals in the order they come in. The Board of Appeals must take up an appeal within 90 days after it’s filed, under the rules.

West Hawaii accounts for 82% of the county’s short-term vacation rental applications in permitted areas and just 25% of those in non-permitted areas, according to a Planning Department report.

More appeals are expected, as the Planning Department works its way through more than 4,000 applications for vacation rental permits it’s received since the new law went into effect last year. As of November, the department had denied some 80 or 90 applications after plowing through 900 of the applications.

It’s estimated that about 1,600 of those include applications for nonconforming use certificates that are required in order to grandfather in those preexisting vacation rentals outside approved areas such as Resort, General Commercial, Village Commercial, Residential and Commercial Zoning Districts situated in the General Plan Resort and Resort Node areas and Multiple-Family Residential for multiple family dwellings within a condominium property regime.

The deadline to apply for a nonconforming use certificate was Sept. 28, 2019. But the department continues publishing notices of applications as it works through the backlog.

Planning Director Michael Yee expects several of the cases to go on to circuit court and beyond.

“Once those big cases clear, it will set precedents that will make it clearer,” Yee told the County Council in November.

Most of the denials relate to a state land use law that restricted structures to only farm dwellings in lots created after June 4, 1976, in agriculture districts. Others were denied because of shoreline violations in special management areas or for illegal or unpermitted structures.

The vast majority of appeals are coming from homeowners denied nonconforming use certificates.

One of those is on 18.4 acres of agricultural land owned by B.P. Bishop Estate and leased to Kona Torrent LLC, according to county land records. Kona Torrent, in turn, runs Bay View Farm coffee farm, including processing and sales at the location at 83-5249 Painted Church Road in Captain Cook, according to state business records.

The property contains two houses, a six-bedroom, 4,722-square-foot home and a 3-bedroom, 1,690-square-foot one. The land and property, which also includes outbuildings and a concrete infinity pool, is valued by the county at $3.5 million.

Sandra J. Dicicco, member of the limited liability company who signed the company’s annual report, couldn’t be reached for comment at her Clovis, California, phone number by press time Thursday. The hearing has been continued to April 17.

Peter Ateng Gunawan of West Hill, California, and fellow owner Janti Sutedja are appealing their permit denial for a vacation home on two acres of agricultural land at 73-1425 Kukuna Street in Kailua-Kona. The property, valued at $2.65 million, includes a 5,800-square-foot, seven-bedroom home.

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A hearing on one of the few East Hawaii appeals has also been continued; this one until March 13.

Gretta Speir, of Captain Cook, is appealing the denial of a nonconforming use certificate for the family trust’s 756-square-foot two-room cottage with loft on about one-half acre in a residential area valued at $170,400.

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