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Vacation rental applications flood Planning Department

A month after a key deadline for short-term vacation rentals, the Hawaii County Planning Department is plowing through almost 4,000 applications, including 1,150 seeking exemptions for nonconforming zoning.

The department typically processes about 800 application of all types annually, Douglas Le, administrative services officer in the Planning Department, said Friday.

“We had five times that in just six months. We’re working diligently to process them,” Le said. “It’s definitely been a crush for the department.”

The County Council Planning Committee will get the full story at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the department holds a briefing requested by Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who chairs the committee. She expects the briefing, along with council member questions and answers, to take about an hour.

“There are a lot of things to navigate when it comes to implementing new laws, so the requested update is a chance to get a temp check on where we are in the process. It’s no easy task the Planning Department has on its hands, so I’m hoping for dialogue around what their challenges are, to hear what the community’s experiences have been, and to use the collective conversation to drive next steps,” Kierkiewicz said. “At the end of the day, we need to strike the right balance between housing for residents, providing a suite of accommodations and entrepreneurial opportunities, and having an efficient and streamlined process in place to make it all happen.”

The committee meets in Hilo council chambers, but the public can participate via videoconference at the West Hawaii Civic Center, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.

The “vast majority” of the applications are being processed and are under review, Le said.

Fewer than 300 applications have been closed out, with most approved, 66 denied and a small number withdrawn by the applicant, he said.

The applications can get quite complex.

Applicants are required to submit approved building, plumbing and electrical permits, building diagrams, proof of payment of property, transient accommodations and general excise taxes, certification for parking, verification that notices of the business were submitted to all neighbors within 300 feet of the property. Applications also require a nonrefundable $500 application fee that must be renewed each year for an additional $250.

Vacation rental applications are now allowed only for dwellings in resort or commercially zoned areas. Those who were already operating in unpermitted areas had to apply for and not be rejected for nonconforming use certificates in order to continue past Sept. 30.

“We expect a couple hundred a year, maybe less,” to come in after the initial rush, Le said.

Vacation rentals are defined as dwelling units where the owner or operator does not reside on the building site, that has no more than five bedrooms for rent and is rented for a period of 30 consecutive days or less.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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