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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bills would alter rules on bed and breakfasts

Advertiser Staff

After hearing complaints from neighbors and support from the lodging industry, the City Council advanced four measures intended to resolve the long-standing issue of how to integrate bed and breakfasts into O'ahu communities.

Bills that would further regulate the facilities by requiring close inspection, permitting, regulation and mandatory advertising were considered, along with others that would lift a ban on their expansion on O'ahu.

By passing the bills on first reading, the council ensures there will be more discussion, hearings and votes on the issues.

Among the supporters was Angie Larson, coordinator for Homes of Hospitality of Hawai'i, which represents about 400 vacation rental operators. She gathered more than two dozen owners of bed and breakfasts, who stood three rows deep in the council audience while she spoke at the podium.

"We look forward to working with the council and we support (the bills)," Larson said.

But Larry Bartley, executive director of Save O'ahu's Neighborhoods, said neighborhoods should remain residential and visitor dwellings should be located in visitor areas.

Stu Simmons, a 16-year Kailua resident, agreed, saying the bed and breakfasts violate existing zoning laws and bring transient populations to neighborhoods.

"They are not compatible with residential neighborhoods," Simmons said. "The issue is not (the existence) of bed and breakfasts, it is where they are going to be located."

The issue has been debated for more than three years, with bed-and-breakfast proponents saying the rentals are good for the tourism industry and help to subsidize high housing costs. Opponents say they create transient communities in areas far removed from the bustle of O'ahu's visitor hubs.

If passed, the amendments would dramatically overhaul a 1989 city ordinance on short-term rentals that banned opening new bed and breakfasts.

Currently, there are fewer than 100 legal bed and breakfasts operating under nonconforming use permits.

Bed and breakfasts can take in renters for less than 30 days. About 1,000 owners have permits to rent an empty home for less than 30 days, although those operations are not strictly considered bed and breakfasts.

Many other vacation rentals are operating without permits.

Among bills that passed first reading yesterday:

  • An amendment to the land-use ordinance that removes the prohibition on new bed and breakfasts and establishes the rentals as a conditional use in residential districts subject restrictions, including a minimum separation distance, and requiring a conditional use permit for the use.

  • Repealing the prohibition against bed and breakfasts and establishing a permitting system to supplement the zoning, subdivision and building ordinances.

  • Requiring that advertisements for transient vacation units include certain information that would help the city's ability to locate illegal units and enforcing the prohibition against their operation in residential and certain other areas.

    The Honolulu planning commission on Jan. 30 voted 7-0 against repealing the 1989 ban on bed-and-breakfast homes.