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Candidates debate B&Bs on Hawaii Public Radio


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Maintaining the rural nature of communities and seeking better enforcement of existing laws would be key points to focus on as the City Council moves forward on the often divisive issue of bed-and-breakfast and vacation rentals in Windward Oahu.

Those were recurring themes as candidates running in the City Council special election had their first opportunity to debate face to face last night on Hawaii Public Radio.

The live forum at Hawaii Public Radio's Atherton Performing Arts Studio featured nine of the 11 candidates running for the Windward Oahu seat representing District 3. They were split into two groups with each featured for an hour.

The first group included Paul Akau, J. Ikaika Anderson, Tracy Nakano Bean and John Henry Felix. Wilson Kekoa Ho, Steve Holmes, Sol Nalua'i, Tom Pico and Pohai Ryan made up the second group. Not in attendance were Keoki Leong and Leona Mapuana Kalima.

The mail-in special election is being held to fill the Windward Oahu City Council seat of Barbara Marshall, who died Feb. 22 after a battle with colon cancer. Today is the deadline for district residents to register to vote in the special mail-in ballot.

The district represents parts of Kaneohe, Kailua and Waimanalo, where bed-and-breakfast and transient vacation units have been a thorny issue. Many homeowners say they constitute a legitimate business contributing to Honolulu's tourism, while others contend too many people are creating a nuisance by illegally renting their homes.

Felix and Holmes, both former councilmembers, noted they had voted in favor of a compromise in 1989 that allowed existing B&B and transient vacation units to continue operating while limiting the number of new units that could be built and licensed.

“;I think we have to meet our commitment to the citizens of the 3rd District and live up to our commitment of 1989,”; said Felix. “;I would say no more TVUs and no more B&Bs.”;

Added Holmes, “;As I've gone door to door, I've gotten an earful. ... I've seen some of the excesses that have occurred in our community.”;

Other supported keeping a dialogue open.

“;Keep all people, all parties at the table and keep working toward a solution, rather than pitting neighbor against neighbor, which is what we have now,”; said Anderson, an aide to Marshall for the past six years.

“;We do need to have that dialogue,”; Akau said. “;We do need to have the people communicate.”;

“;I do not support bed-and-breakfasts in neighborhoods or residential neighborhood zones,”; Nalua'i said. “;It splits the community. It disrupts the neighborhood.”;

Others noted that licensed units can coexist with the community.

Ryan said a neighbor once had run a bed-and-breakfast for years before she even knew the business was there. “;I've seen what they can contribute to the community,”; she said.

And Pico said his mother ran a licensed bed-and-breakfast that peacefully coexisted with neighbors. “;I understand a bed-and-breakfast can be operated in a way that is not disruptive to the community.”;

Bean added, “;I think we need to be sensitive to the fact that there are a group of people that need to supplement their income.”;

Ho was among those seeking stricter enforcement of existing laws.

“;Why are we not going through the advertising that all the people are doing and starting there to have these people regulated and controlled?”; he said.