Bed & Breakfasts controversy heats up as final vote approaches - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Bed & Breakfasts controversy heats up as final vote approaches

Leigh Prentiss Leigh Prentiss
Bob Ress Bob Ress

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Neighbors against neighbors - is it time to legalize new bed and breakfasts?

Residents will find out this week when the Honolulu City Council votes on whether to allow new permits for bed and breakfast operations - something it hasn't done in 20 years.

On Monday, opponents rallied to make sure the ban stays in place.

'Keep Windward Oahu Residential' is the message protesters rallied for in Kailua.

"I think Santa, he needs to know which ones are the residents so he can deliver the packages to the appropriate people," said Bob Ress, a protester dressed as Santa.

It's a final push to try and kill Bill 7 which would allow for more bed and breakfasts on Oahu.

Opponents say they're for B&B's, just not next to their homes.

It's a controversy so intense, protesters say they're planning to recall Honolulu Councilmember Ikaika Anderson, who authored the bill.

"It will require about 10% - about 6,000 signatures we should need, and we're already getting to roll," said Leigh Prentiss, a member of Keep It Kailua.

Prentiss says they'll launch the recall when Anderson hits his one-year mark in office.

"That's news to me. I was elected almost a year ago with 49% of the vote. If they want to recall me, it's unfortunate. I had really hoped that this bill would bring the community to a consensus, bring the community together," said Anderson.

In an effort to regulate B&B's, Bill 7 does have several conditions. B&B owners must live on the property, and have no more than three rooms, with a maximum of two people per room. Also, no more than a third of the 1,275 bed and breakfasts are allowed per district.

To enforce the regulations, under Bill 7, Anderson says violators could face $1000 to $5000 in fines. It would also be illegal to advertise illegal bed and breakfasts. Currently, Anderson says the city has to catch an operator in the act of illegally renting out a B&B.

Supporters say the bill would end illegal B&B's. Two owners who want to stay anonymous admit they don't have permits.

"It's not like we're drug dealers, or I mean, evil people. It depends what your definition of legal and illegal is. As far as the tax department goes, it's entirely legal because we are paying our taxes. As far as DCCA goes in registering the business and getting a license, it's entirely legal," said one B&B owner operating without a permit.

"The interesting thing is the state is very happy to collect the general excise taxes and the transient accommodation taxes on one hand, but count that source of income that they're collecting on as illegal. It's kind of ironic," said another owner of an illegal B&B.

Bill 7 would cap the number of bed and breakfasts permits at 1,275. The average B&B rate goes for about $135 to $150 per night, so the bill would generate at least a $170,000 per night for B&B owners, which in turn would generate tax revenue for the state.

Supporters say those taxes from B&B's will help stimulate the state's economy, tourism, and promote small businesses.

The Honolulu City Council is expected to hand down its final vote at its meeting on Wednesday.

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