Short-Term Rental Laws Modified
After the legalization of short-term rentals in 2012, Maui County planners say things are going well, with nine permitted properties on Molokai since then. But planners are still seeking to improve the laws that govern them.
At last week’s meeting, the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) reviewed the ordinance, addressed concerns and discussed issues relevant to Molokai to better implement the process. The Commission welcomed resident testimony, but there was a lack of attendance at the scheduled public hearing.
“I think today’s lack of turnout is a sign that it’s going pretty well and that the law is working,” said Staff Planner of Maui County’s Department of Planning, Gina Flammer. “It’s been two years since the law was passed and there have been nine permitted short-term rentals. It seems to be working very well for not only the permit holders but for neighbors.”
The Commission voted unanimously to pass an amendment to a proposed bill that would keep the bedroom number of short-term rentals at three, instead of doubling the number. The proposed law by the Maui County Planning Department looked to make all the short-term rental rules consistent for every island, where the number of bedrooms is six everywhere else for the total property.
The current bill allows for three-bedroom short-term rentals on Molokai. Commissioner Marshall Racine said doubling the number of bedrooms creates an impact and “doubles the load for our infrastructure, our people, the neighbors and damages our roads. We’ve got to keep it at three.”
“I’ve been here long enough to get the idea that Molokai is different from the other islands and this is a difference we want to keep,” Racine said. “Making us the same as the other islands for administrative purposes sets that aside. Let’s to keep Molokai, Molokai.”
After ruling to keep the limit of three bedrooms, MoPC also recommended approval of the County Council’s proposed bill to allow four, five and six bedrooms for Bed and Breakfast (B&B) rentals. Currently, only three-bedroom rentals are allowed on Molokai.
The main difference between a B&B and a short-term rental is that for a short-term rental, the owner does not have to live on-island. The property would be managed by a local representative. Short-term rental managers are not mandated to live on-site. However, the law requires them to live within 30 miles of the rental and respond to any complaints within one hour.
The County Council will approve the final form of the bill, which could happen early next year.
Lack of capping, or limiting the number of short-term rentals in a particular area, is another complaint of Molokai residents and commissioners alike.
Caps reduce the impact of residential housing, Flammer said. However, on Molokai there are no caps set in place by the County Council for short-term rentals.
“The concern heard from the public is that without a cap, comes an unlimited number [of short-term rentals] and with that comes consequences and impacts on a neighborhood,” Flammer said.
Molokai resident Linda Place called for the County to begin putting caps on vacation rentals to prevent heavy concentrations of short-term rentals in certain areas. Her biggest concern was of the influx of vacation rentals on the east end.
“If we don’t put a cap on it, an area can be overwhelmed,” Place said. “In Waialua, there’re too many short-term rentals. We have around seven properties and that’s a lot for a small area. If we open it to more then we’re going to have more building and development coming it. This is a huge concern.”
Commissioner Diane Swenson said while she is in favor of a well-managed capping system, she testified that commissioners should wait on making a motion on such a measure until Maui County performs adequate research. She argued for the County to release data on the number of short-term rentals per area.
“Although we do want a reasonable amount of growth,” he said, “I would like to see some more information because I think something more reasonable would be an area-density requirement, or sub-cap, rather than cap and just say 50 for the whole island.”
This issue doesn’t only pertain to Molokai; it’s a problem for Maui as well.
The major concern is that having no cap will cause a huge proliferation and could change the neighborhood from being residential to being a resort area, Flammer said.
The Commission also addressed an amendment by the County to allow property managers access within one-hour of a notice of complaint for B&Bs and short-term rentals compliance inspections. This would give more force to managers, Flammer said.
“Our concern is that if you give more notice, then the complaint is hidden or the problems are addressed,” Flammer said. “We want to be able to do the compliance inspection in a quick enough matter, so we can assess what’s really happening on the property, only when there’s trouble or a complaint.”
Swenson disagreed with the proposed amendment stating that, “residents on Molokai are concerned that this is too quick of a notice.”
Currently, property managers can show up anytime, at an appropriate hour and with credentials, once they receive a complaint.