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  • 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’s 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

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020 12:54 PM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

    The Planning Department’s new fines for illegal operation of short term rentals, transient vacation rentals and bed and breakfast are in effect as of December 22, 2019. The new fines are $20,000 for an initial fine for a notice of violation, with daily fines accruing at $10,000 a day. I have seen an uptick in the request for service logs in the Planning Department, there were a total of 16 in December of 2019, we are at 23 as of today already in January 2020. 

    The Planning Department says 5 Notice of Warnings have gone out so far. What that means is those receiving a warning have 7 days to act to stop operations. If not the Notice of Violation will go out that will include the fines. 

    I am keeping track of the RFS numbers, and will keep reporting back on information on the new system of fines. I am hoping we will see a reduction in illegal short term rental activity. Please let me know if this is the case for your neighborhood. Or if you would like more information please email or call me at 808-280-3286.

  • Monday, January 20, 2020 12:51 PM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

    Your Mana’o is needed in West Maui

    The West Maui Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) is considering phasing out Vacation Rentals in the Lahaina Historic District. You may think, ‘well my vacation rental is not in the historic district.’ However they are also suggesting expanding the historic district from Shaw Street to the gates at Puamana.

    We know the committee has a lot of pressure to try to assist affordable housing in Lahaina, however, phasing out the legal vacation rentals will probably not open up the kind of housing the west side community needs so badly. We know vacation rentals serve an important part of the visitor industry on the west side, diversifies the tourism economy, and creates walkable access for the visitors to the Lahaina Historic district. 

    There are a lot of communities across the world that have figured out how to benefit from having vacation rentals in their historic districts. It can be a win-win.

    The CPAC is also considering a halt of all short term rental home permits, hotel expansions and new hotels until the supply of residential housing units exceeds the supply of visitor units. In their Economic Opportunity through Innovation section of policies. Again we see the desperate need for housing units, but this does not feel like innovation.

    I will be sending out more sample testimony shortly. If you have questions about this proposed language please feel free to email me. If you wish to reach the West Maui Community Plan Advisory Committee please email

  • Friday, January 17, 2020 3:31 PM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

    The next Planning and Sustainable Land Use meeting will be held in Molokai on January 28, 2020. 5pm. The committee is putting forth Proposed Bill PSLU-21 CC 17-173 - from Council Vice-Chair 01-14-2020, setting the Molokai cap to Zero. The proposed bill would allow current permit holders to maintain their permits until they expire. Furthermore, certain permits would be eligible for a 90-day renewal. These situations are:

    The permit expires within 90 days of the effective date of this bill; or

    The permit expires no later than 90 days after the effective of the bill and an application for that permit’s renewal was received prior to the effective date of the bill.

    upcoming meeting agenda

    The bill does not address new permit applications in process. However, aside from the 90-day renewal provisions, no new permits would be allowed on Molokai if the bill goes into effect. 

    Why this is important to you

    Every Molokai STRH permit holder, property manager, and ancillary supplier and tertiary businesses should be at this meeting on January 28 to protect their own interests.  

    It is possible the language on the bill that indicates permits could be denied the renewal process could be challenged in courts.

    Even if your own permit is on Maui not Molokai, please consider sending testimony. We do not want precedents set for community plan capping of short term rentals to zero. Recent comments in the Planning and Sustainable Land Use meetings indicate plans to reduce caps in other regions. Let them know how vacation rentals are important to you and the island.

    I will be sending sample testimony shortly. If you have questions about this proposed bill please feel free to email me. If you wish to reach the Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee please email

  • Saturday, May 04, 2019 2:33 AM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

    Hawaii Senate passed Bill 1292 in a 13 to 12 vote. The bill allows AirBnB to collect TAT and GET taxes on behalf of its hosts. The bill goes to Governor Ige for consideration next. There was a lot of pressure in the senate to pass this bill to access the $46 billion in estimated revenue.

    The governor has turned down this bill before, which does not differentiate between legal and illegal rentals. Some have criticised this bill as a de-facto way of legalizing illegal short term rentals because Airbnb is not required to report taxes with names and addresses. It remains to be seen exactly how that would work for permitted hosts having the service collect their GET and TAT taxes.

    While Oahu struggles with short term rental legislation, Maui has a sanctioned and legit Short Term rental and Bed and Breakfast industry. It may not be in Airbnb’s interests to focus on our legal permitted system, yet they continue to be a leader in the marketing aspect of short term rentals. I would like to see our permitted industry, while not perfect, set as an example for the state.

    For members that utilize AirBnb and want a way to collect taxes directly from guests AirBnb has said they have a tool available that you can turn on in professional hosting tools. More information here:

    Let me know if you utilize this tool and how it is working for you. If you haven't joined Maui Vacation Rental Association yet, please take a moment to become a member we would love to have you!

  • Thursday, May 02, 2019 3:26 PM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

    Yep We Still Have Rat Lungworm

    An unfortunate case of Rat Lungworm was recently reported in Alaska related to a woman who had vacationed in Hawaii. Please continue to keep your guests informed and updated on proper care for consumption of raw veggies. I have included a few hand outs here that may be useful for posting in kitchens or including in welcome packets. The woman in Alaska is reported to be ok. The bottom line is Rat Lungworm is not going anywhere, but it's not the end of the world, or eating fresh vegetables. The best way to deal with it is to keep people educated on safety and how to avoid getting it. I am including some reference material here to assist. If you have any questions let me know.

    For more information and other reference information into the Rat Lungworm see this article:

    If you want to be kept up to date on news affecting your guests and you are not a member of Maui Vacation Rental Association please take a moment to join us!

    to download the document above click on the link below:

    produce cleaning.pdf

  • Wednesday, April 24, 2019 1:36 AM | Jen Russo (Administrator)

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to come out to testify and submit written testimony to the Economic Development and Budget Committee. The County Council reported hundreds of testimonies came in. The council members learned a lot about the Short Term Rental and Bed and Breakfast industry through testimony and they have posted their rates for the upcoming year in their April 29, 2019 meeting. The rates came in at $10.75/$1000 for Short Term Rental with an increase of $1.47. Commercial residential came in with a $0.05 increase to $4.60/$1000. While we were unable to curtail any increases, this is much better than their original proposed $15 rate. The council is still taxing Short Term Rentals rigorously. We did see a shift with Hotel rates taking the biggest increase of 49%, but short term rentals are overall creating more revenue for the county real property tax.

    The council increased real real property taxes $36.8 million from FY19 to FY20 for an overall increase of 11.5% over last year's budget. The Mayor had proposed an increase of $19.6million or 6.1% and the Council added an additional $17.4 million to that figure.

    Of that $36.8 million tax increase:

    $22 million is being generated by increases to the short term rentals

    $10.7 million is being generated by increases to the Hotel resort classification

    $2.5 million is being generated by increases to the Residential (second home) classification

    The next step in the process of adoption of these rates is the public hearing at 11:00 am on May 10. The council will hear testimony, but will not change these rates. The Mayor is not likely to veto or change these rates either.

    Between the Time Share, Hotel, Commercial Residential and the Short Term Rental Rates, the Visitor Accommodations sector of our island's industry is generating 48% of the County Real Property Tax budget, or $169.8 Million. Of This the short term rentals and commercial residential combined generates about 30% percent of the real property tax revenue. What this means is that Short Term Rental Homes and Bed and Breakfast operations are vital to our county economy. A fact that we have known all along, but one the county can no longer ignore. I noticed the hotels often threaten in their testimonies that they employ so many people that they cannot suffer high increases in their taxes or large layoffs result. This resonates with council members.

    What I would like to do is gather data from you members, with respect to who we are employing in this healthy tertiary market of property managers, maintenance businesses, cleaning businesses, interior designers, landscapers and the like. We can continue to educate the current council on our industry which is so critical to the health of our community, as they have so boldly indicated by their budget. If you are not a member take a moment to join us and be a part of this membership!

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