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Killing bill doesn't resolve B&B issue


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POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2009

Illegal bed-and-breakfast operations will continue indefinitely on Oahu following the City Council's rejection of a bill that would have limited their number. The Council should revise the proposal to assure effective enforcement of such a limitation — the key omission from what was intended as a compromise.

A 4-4 vote on the measure signaled its defeat; six voters were needed to overcome the city Planning Commission's rejection of an earlier proposal last year. The commission's chairwoman, Karin Holma, expressed concern that it would legalize a “;mini-resort”; in a residential neighborhood.

The bill would have limited no more than half of 1 percent of the island's residential properties — estimated at 1,275 homes — to be allowed as rental of bedrooms for short periods, and no more than one-third of them would be allowed in a single district. However, Kailua opponents of the proposal maintain that as many as 1,300 already are in operation in their neighborhood alone.

Councilman Rod Tam pointed out in a commentary on these pages Sunday that the city has the power to fine violators up to $5,000 a day and could foreclose on the houses of those refusing to pay it. He said the bill would effectively identify violators by requiring a permit number to be included on any B&B advertisement.

The Keep it Kailua organization opposing the bill maintained that neighbors would be saddled by having to file cumbersome complaints and that violators would “;have numerous loopholes to skirt the law.”; For example, police would be required to witness a violation before city inspectors could accept complaints. Obviously, the enforcement process needs to be simplified.

When bed-and-breakfast operations were banned on Oahu 20 years ago, 141 permits were grandfathered to remain, but the law has been virtually ignored by both the operators and the city enforcers. During his campaign for office five years ago, Mayor Mufi Hannemann called for beefing up the number of city inspectors to enforce the ban, but such an effort has not been noticeable.

The bill before the Council would have restricted B&B operations to owner-occupied residences with no more than three bedrooms rented out in each home and no more than two guests for each bedroom. A homeowner taking part in the practice would be required to pay $500 for a license every two years, and the funds would pay for enforcement.

Renegade activity must not be allowed to persist and grow as a result of this week's stalemate. The City Council should satisfy complaints about the enforcement procedures before revisiting the issue, which should not be allowed to die.