POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2009

Legal or not, the vacation rental and bed-and-breakfast issue needs to be addressed.

I wanted to respond to your articles regarding Fanger Estates, vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfast locations (”;Reviving the B&B bill,”; Star-Bulletin, July 15). It seems like it was one-sided and other than me, the only people quoted were opposed to the vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfast business. I am a new homeowner in this state and there are thousands of other long-time homeowners who support this issue and have a lot to say.

As far as Fanger Estates is concerned, I have never charged anyone for the 11 weddings that have occurred on this property since 2001. Since I owned it over the last eight years I have let neighbors, friends, family and some of the local residents use it as a wedding location.

I received a letter from the city Department of Planning and Permits several months ago and have received phone calls from it regarding the use of my property. Responding to complaints, the department is doing its job — (but) the letter from the DPP shocked me since there are thousands of vacation rentals on the island that are in operation. In response to its letter I have changed my Web site and in the future I am only contracting for 30 days or more to use the property. If someone is fortunate enough to have their wedding on Fanger Estates I have not and will not charge them to do so.

Since receiving the letter from DPP I have done a lot more research on the vacation and B&B rental issue. I have counted on the many vacation rental Web sites that advertise rentals on Oahu in over 5,500 locations that are currently in business. Over 80 percent of these rentals have local numbers. In these difficult financial times, there is never a time vacation rentals and B&Bs are needed as badly on Oahu. The issues need to be addressed evenly on both sides.

The vacation rental and B&B business has been in existence since people started coming to Hawaii. I read about it in some of Mark Twain's writings about Oahu. It is one of the viable and thriving businesses in Hawaii even in tough economic times. About half of the vacation renters are locals from Oahu or another Hawaiian island; they drive across the island to have a gathering with their families instead of leaving the island, which is expensive. Their money is spent here, not off the island, which is beneficial in many ways.

The opponents scream loudly and the supporters try to stay under the radar so they can continue to do a business that pays their bills. The vacation rental and B&B owners hide in the closet so that they don't get identified as someone who is called a criminal by the opponents. They are scared to lose the revenues that pay their mortgages and put food on their tables, they are afraid to not be able to continue to do a business that they have done for many years.

I have calculated that vacation rentals and B&Bs bring in over $160 million in rental revenues to vacation rentals and B&Bs owners. A study by the Hawaii Tax Department says that most of these owners pay their taxes on the rental revenues they earn. If this is true and if everyone who rented their homes paid taxes, this would bring in more than $17 million in taxes to the state.

The benefits to the homeowners and the taxes paid to the state are only a small part of the advantages of having vacation rentals and B&Bs operating here. Without these rentals the foreclosure rate would soar higher than it has and property values would drop even more. There would be a glut of homes coming on the market to be sold. Thousands of individuals would lose their jobs and source of income and unemployment would increase.

Every community close to the beach on Oahu has numerous homes being rented out to vacationers. Without this revenue many of the small communities that are struggling now would struggle even more.

I understand the concerns of the opponents: noise at night, parking and additional cars on the road. These concerns are legitimate; the neighbors should have a right to peacefully exist in their homes without being disrupted beyond the boundaries set on neighbors who are not vacationing.

These concerns can be addressed and paid for through regulations set on the vacation rental and B&B owners. Control the noise and parking issues with hefty fines. Get the money needed to enforce the regulations with fees that are collected from licensing the vacation rental and B&B homes. Deal with the issues on weekends and at night with regulators instead of calling police, or share these fees with local law enforcement so they afford to deal with complaints.

The vacation rental and B&B issue needs to be addressed for the sake of the opponents and for the supporters. With regulations, both sides can be helped and heard. To not address it is causing feuds between neighbors, causing homeowners to lose sleep, the state to lose tax revenues, straining local law enforcement agencies and causing vacationers to feel apprehensive about being a party to this issue.


Gary Fanger owns Fanger Estates, a 4.2-acre property in Hauula.