Maui beach. (Photo: VCG)
Molokai could become the first island in Hawaii where new short-term vacation rentals are banned and old ones are phased out.
The Maui County Council approved a measure last month to place a zero cap on short-term rentals on Molokai, meaning none would be allowed and existing operations would be eliminated within three months, Hawaii Public Radio reported Monday.
The bill is awaiting the signature of Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino.
Maui planners are also considering a ban on vacation rentals throughout the county.
Maui County experienced a 27.2% increased in vacation rentals in January compared to the same period last year, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The county already has caps on short-term vacation rentals in place for specific areas, ranging from five in Maui Meadows to 100 in Kihei and Makena.
“This is something that the Molokai community has been asking for a number of years now,” said Maui County Councilwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who introduced the Molokai bill.
Short-term rental owners could apply for bed-and-breakfast licenses, but would have to live on the properties, Rawlins-Fernandez said.
“We have a reputation of fiercely protecting our home. We want to ensure Molokai is still the Molokai we grew up with for our childrenʻs children,” she said.
Greg Mebel of the Maui Vacation Rentals Association said most short-term rental owners on Molokai were blindsided by the proposal.
An outright ban on the growing industry could push Molokai into a “wild west” type of situation in which owners are tempted to operate illegally, he said.
“The people who got these permits, they went through a lot to get them,” Mebel said. “They were promised by the county to be able to operate. They made investments around that promise. And they are being told that they don’t have that anymore.”