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Molokai Testimony

Monday, January 27, 2020 9:46 AM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

Honorable Tamara Paltin, Chair

Maui County Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee

Council of the County of Maui 

Wailuku, Hawaii 96793

RE: Proposed Bill PSLU-21 CC 17-173

Dear Committee Chair Tamara Paltin and Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee Members,


A component in the Molokai Community Plan adopted in 2018 is that collaboration between community, government, and landowners is needed for the future of Molokai, its people and its culture (page 23). This kind of collaboration will start with good policy. 

Another important action outlined in the Molokai Community Plan is the expansion of complementary tourism markets, supporting limited growth of alternative lodging units, and support increased enforcement of the STRH ordinance. The Planning Department just started its new enforcement fines on December 22, 2019. These other two items, join several others in the list of goals for a stable, balanced, diversified, and sustainable economy, respecting cultural and natural resources, that is compatible with Moloka'i's rural island lifestyle (page 65).

I am not comfortable with the idea of phasing out Legally permitted vacation rentals on Molokai, and what this committee is putting forth in this bill seems to contradict what was outlined in the community plan.  In the last ten years, the County has worked so hard on the permitting process for legal rentals and 18 individuals have invested in good faith to obtain legal permits on Molokai. Existing permit holders should be allowed to renew. 

Current Single-Family Housing Stock on Molokai is 2632 Single Family Units (Molokai Community Plan 2018 page 86), and of the 18 permits there are 20 dwellings, this is less than 1% of the housing on the island. This is not too much. This is in line with the goals set forth in the community plan. These permitted homes paid $154,349 in real property taxes in 2019, an increase of nearly $40,000 from 2018. These are important funds for the Molokai community and the county. Median nightly rental rates for these properties range from about $265 in Central Molokai to $376 in East Molokai to $613 on the West End.

It would be a disservice to the community, to the goals set forth in the community plan, to set the cap to zero. These homes have attract visitors that spend a high dollar amount while on vacation as well as providing the highest economic benefit to local residents in the way of property managers, cleaners, landscapers, and concierge services providers, as well as supporting the complementary tourism markets like fishing, hiking, and hunting tours, just to name a few. Please set the cap to allow the existing homes to remain. 


If complaints are a problem, perhaps this body could request a part-time inspector to reside on Molokai. And, neighbors also have the ability to have register complaints with the County. There have not been any complaints registered in 2019 on the current permit holders, the complaints that were registered in 2018 and earlier that involved certain permits were addressed. 


The legalization of short term rental homes has helped to meet an established need for our tourism industry, allowing a small business to flourish. The permitting process was created to regulate and limit short term rentals in the community. Phasing out the permitted operations will leave Molokai open to more illegal operations, who will not pay the higher tax rates applied to permitted operations.


There is a demand for a limited number of short term rental homes on Molokai. Moreover, there has been significant investment from the Maui County budget 2019 towards Molokai tourism. 


The individuals that have gone through considerable effort and expense to be legally granted a permit show that they want to work with the community and believe that they have made the best efforts to invest in tourism in Molokai through the legal process. They do not believe that this committee should be considering that they should be giving up this land use right that they have paid so much to obtain through the county‚Äôs permitting process, as well as work with the community to obtain. 


We absolutely want enforcement of those operating without permits or those violating the terms of their permit. However revoking a permit that has never had any issues, or not letting them renew a permit that was legally obtained should not be something that this committee is supporting. It is detrimental to the community of Molokai, against the goals of the community plan and further punishing a small business operating to the best of their ability to benefit this community. It also punishes those that are currently working at the vacation rentals or the businesses that rely on the visitors that stay at them.

We want the community of Molokai to thrive. We want to support the rural subsistence lifestyle that is here, and we want to support the kind of tourism that the community needs. We feel that the limited Short Term Rental homes available on the island is a critical part of the community. We do not support capping them out to zero.


Thank you for considering my testimony


Jen Russo

Executive Director

Maui Vacation Rental Association

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