Ominous Omissions

SUBHEAD: The owner signed an affidavit stating no alterations, improvements, or uses contrary to law were made.

By Joan Conrow on 7 February 2013 for Kauai Eclectic -

Image above: View from lani of "exclusive private" beach across Wainiha River. From rental ad (

A search of Kauai County documents finds no record of any permits authorizing extensive improvements to a Wainiha vacation rental, including the riverside deck/dock where a Canadian visitor, Mark McLean. drowned on Tuesday.

According to a county press release, McLean “was found face down and unresponsive after jumping from a platform into the shallow water below.”
An online advertisement for the Kauai Paradise House transient vacation rental (TVR) suggests:

"Rent a kayak (a local vendor offers 7 days for the price of 5!) and paddle right from the private dock to the private and peaceful white sandy beach, or paddle up the quiet Wainiha River to explore the lush green island."
Of course, we all know there are no private beaches in Hawaii, and that Wainiha River is far from quiet. In fact, the name means “raging waters.”

Image above: Renovated living room of rental house with new flooring, lighting and fan fixtures. From rental ad (
But that's not the only eyebrow-raising claim. The ad also states, emphasis added:
"This entirely renovated private oceanfront retreat on the North Shore of Kauai in Wainiha on the edge of Hanalei is perfect for short- or long-term getaways for family or friends seeking luxurious accommodations with breathtaking views.
The Vacation Home: Newly renovated on the stunning blue Pacific Ocean, Kauai Paradise House is a truly unique oceanfront and riverfront property featuring its own private beach, oceanfront views, 3 king-bed suites (the third of which can be converted to 2 twin beds if desired), gourmet kitchen, travertine tile floors, 3 marble bathrooms, great room with entertainment center, covered lanai, lush backyard, and private deck and dock.
This sophisticated home with a resort feel boasts thoughtful touches throughout, including Tommy Bahama furniture, luxury linens, dual master suites with king-size beds and walk-in showers, new gourmet kitchen with top-of-the-line stainless-steel appliances
(including toaster oven, blender and coffee maker), marble guest bathroom with large walk-in shower, spacious family room with TV and DVD/CD player, high-speed Internet, telephone, TVs and DVDs in every bedroom, gas BBQ on the covered lanai overlooking the deep blue sea, and private oceanfront deck with steps down to your own boat dock."
Sounds pretty flash. Realtor Jane Abramo's current sales listing for the house reiterates the “all new” verbiage:
"Recent upgrades include a new 200 square foot front lanai, expanded 600 square foot covered back lanai with travertine tile, 150 square foot deck above the river, a brand new roof, fresh paint inside and outside, new fencing and tropical landscaping. 
This meticulously renovated private oceanfront retreat on the North Shore of Kauai in Wainiha is perfect for short or long-term getaways for family or friends seeking luxurious accommodations with majestic views. Lovingly refurbished on a private, fenced lot nestled at the edge of the breath-taking Pacific, Kauai Paradise House boasts its own exclusive beach."
[WTF? Exclusive beach?]

Yet a review of real property tax records shows the property as having four bedrooms and two baths, not three suites. And an online search of county building permits shows that aside from the original 1972 construction permit, and some post-Iniki 1993 permits for a fence and minor electrical and plumbing work, there is no record of any permits for these recent upgrades and additions.

Image above: New granite topped kitchen counters and stainless steel fixtures. From rental ad (

So when was this property transformed from a modest hale into a lavish “entirely renovated” vacation rental with a “resort feel” that is now on the market for $2.579 million, after having sold for $1.475 million in 2005? How much of that increased value is due to the TVR permit? And why are the property taxes just $ 2,133.80 per year?

More importantly, why did the county issue a vacation rental permit for this property when its building permits apparently aren't in order? Especially when these substantial improvements were made without complying with federal flood requirements, as is the case with a number of North Shore TVRs.

This is the kind of stuff that slips by when you don't conduct actual site inspections before issuing TVR permits. Yes, that inspection requirement was stricken from the most recent TVR bill, which was introduced by Councilman Tim Bynum and adopted by the Council after the infamous “beer gate.”

Of course, the owner is required to sign a notarized affidavit stating “Building permit number(s) were approved on ____ for all structures on the property and there were no expansions, alterations, improvements, or uses contrary to State and County land use and planning laws.” But how meaningful is that if the county doesn't check? Apparently about as meaningful as the farm dwelling affidavit.

Sadly, it's the visitors who end up suffering from the lack of oversight and full disclosure. In the comments left on the Kauai Paradise House ad, one visitor noted:
"Last, a suggestion; the step from the deck to the river was long, and slippery, especially at low tide. I would suggest one last step or a platform closer to the water.
Another visitor wrote:

We would definitely stay here again, especially when our infant daughter is old enough to go into the river on a floatie too. We put our toddler into her floaties and took her across [the river] to the beach and she loved it"
Meanwhile, the Jan. 12, 2013 Surfrider Kauai Blue Water Task Force report on enterococcus bacterial concentration per 100 ml showed Wainiha River at 173 for single day results and 369.9 for the winter geomean. The geomean should be less than 35, which means this is hardly the place where you'd want your young children to frolic.

So who does bear responsibility for ensuring our visitors are fully informed of the risks they face, and that the houses they rent for their vacations are safe and in full compliance with county laws?


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