‘Unfair’: City plan to streamline commercial restrictions at city parks draws concern

Some residents say tour bus operators and wedding organizers continue to overrun their communities.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:11 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -The city wants to restrict commercial activities to all city parks. But Bill 19 also repeals the ban on tour buses at Windward Oahu beaches ― and that’s got some residents concerned.

“It’s unfair that our voices are being silenced,” said Waimanalo resident Mialisa Otis, who is in favor of restrictions but said the outright ban for Windward Oahu should stay in place. “This opens up more commercial activity.”

Otis added: “There is a lot of rogue weddings and photography (at Waimanalo Beach). There was one this morning. And one of the biggest problems that we can all agree is the lack of enforcement.”

The city said the new bill will make it simpler to enforce illegal commercial activity.

It will make any violation a civil citation subject to a fine ― like a traffic ticket ― and not a criminal violation.

“That simplifies the enforcement because it’s a decriminalized offense and it doesn’t involve having to go into court,” said Laura Thielen, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The bill does ban commercial activities at city parks on the weekends and holidays.

On regular weekdays, tour buses and snorkeling and scuba lessons are allowed to operate at most parks as long as operators had a permit.

But weddings would not be allowed.

Filming by the movie and television industries also would be permitted Commercial activities by nonprofits and permitted food concessions also are okay.

“If you set up things like the Greek Festival and the Department of Parks and Recreation permits those activities, they will continue to be allowed as long as the commercial commercial aspect is subordinate to the primary recreational use,” said Thielen.

The bill was approved by the City Council on Wednesday on first reading. It next goes to a committee for further hearings.