When I first heard about plans for a picket protest on November 2 at Pa’ia Inn, I was told that the issue was “a huge deal” for the residents of Pa’ia. “It is a question of how [Michael Baskin, the owner of Pa‘ia Inn] still runs Pa’ia Inn ILLEGALLY, and continues to harass Aarona Ohana who is one of the last Hawaiians to own a beachfront property, behind [Flatbread Pizza]Read the call to action. The demands had all the flavors of a popular activism campaign on social media.
“It has to do with Pa’ia Inn, and the denial of its special use permit to operate nine rooms,” Francine (Mopsy) Aarona told me in a phone conversation Monday. “This means that five rooms that are already in violation are included in this permit, so it has been completely closed. We want law enforcement to take place. This is our quest. “
She was referring to a Sept. 25 decision by the Planning Commission to deny a special use permit to Pa’ia Inn for the operation of nine rooms. Although hotels and resorts are banned in the town of Pa’ia, a business district in the country town, the county code allows special use permits for temporary vacation rentals up to 12 rooms if applicants meet a set of criteria.
Following a previous license denial in 2016 and a subsequent appeal from Pa’ia Inn, retired Judge E. John McConnell was selected as a hearing officer for the contested case. In Justice McConnell’s findings, it was recommended that the Planning Commission reverse its previous decision and approve the special use permit for Baskin and the inn. Still, the commission voted 5-1 to reject the hearing officer’s recommendation, with Commissioner Lawrence Carnicelli explaining that he disagreed with McConnell’s facts, particularly regarding the assertion that the proposed use would have no deleterious effect on the public.
Since the ruling, Baskin has continued to operate the Pa’ia Inn while challenging the license denial in the Second Circuit Court.
“It is true that the request for nine rooms was denied by the Planning Commission,” county communications director Rod Antone said in a Nov. 5 email. “However, by mutual agreement, the Pa’ia Inn can continue to operate during the appeal process, and is currently in full compliance with all county requirements.”
That didn’t stop Mopsy and Protect Pa’ia from gathering outside the inn on November 2. “We want law enforcement to be done and that’s all in a nutshell about the protest,” Mopsy said. “We want the community to be aware of this, we want the county to be aware of it – that the community will no longer support it, that’s enough. He operated by earning a lot of money. We want law enforcement and we will continue to make our voices heard. “
For Baskin and the Aaronas, this is just the latest in an ongoing feud. “We are in full compliance so there is no action for the county to take,” Baskin said Monday. “Mopsy works with competitors to get to the beach. She says that we are blocking access to the beach when in fact she is the one blocking access to the beach, ”he alleged, referring to an easement that allows access to the shore from Ae Place, which has become another point of contention among the neighbors.
On October 30, days before the November 2 rally, Protect Pa’ia shared a Facebook post from the Aaronas claiming that Baskin had bullied the neighbors. “Today he brought in surveyors to survey a 3 foot path that crosses my property which has already been surveyed and which is shore access for neighbors who live on AE Lane only. My husband told him to leave and pulled the pins and apologized to the surveyors, ”the post read.
Then, on November 1, Baskin filed a complaint with the Second Circuit Court regarding the incident and other encounters related to the easement. The lawsuit claims that Baskin has a registered deed of easement for the 40 Ae Place property and that access was blocked by the Aaronas.
The next day, the protest took place outside Pa’ia Inn along the Hana Highway, not without conflict. “He tried to stop us, he called the police, and he indicated that we were entering his sidewalk,” Mopsy said.
“We only contacted the police about intruders who harassed our customers and staff and interfered with our business,” Baskin replied, adding that the protesters were blocking the aisle and falsely telling customers that the hostel was not was not legal. Mopsy said the protesters had been briefed by police on their rights and limitations and the rally began peacefully.
Asked about the group’s use of the Hawaiian flag, Mopsy replied, “This is our hae – this is our flag. It is the native land, it is the native county, it is the native land. It was ours before everyone else and it’s our flag. We stand by this flag. Even though we’re meant to be American citizens, it’s our flag … but that doesn’t mean we’re racist.
In our conversation, Mopsy continued to invoke his family’s legacy and history with the land. “He’s already made accusations in the testimony or the videos, it’s his private beach, Baby Pond,” she said. “How dare he. We don’t even call it our private beach. Our piko for our keiki, they’re all at Baby Pond. This area means a lot to the Kekahuna ‘ohana as well as to the Kane’ohana who have lived here. for 25 years and they endured a lot of harassment.
Baskin argued, in response, that the Aaronas misinformed the public about Pa’ia Inn and were aligned with the Inn’s competitors. He responded with calls for the island of Maui plan: “We are part of a well-planned community that preserves the small town vibe and rural character of the area, that meets the future needs of residents and visitors in harmony with the natural environment and traditional uses of the region, ”says Baskin. He added that he agreed that the development of hotels and resorts should be banned in the region.
Likewise, Mopsy expressed his distrust of Baskin. “We plan to give the community more insight to show his intentions to master this city and of course he will say he is trying to improve the city,” she said. “We tell him what’s wrong with living a simple, quiet life without 20,000 tourists like Lahaina.”
It is questionable whether a transitional nine-bedroom vacation rental puts the community of Pa’ia on the slippery slope to become a resort town, but shows the fears of locals. This highlights the debate, as our island population and the visitor industry grows, over what spaces should be reserved for locals and what areas should welcome visitors. This raises the question of whether a temporary vacation rental in a country town is better than a rental in your neighborhood. He invites us to examine the difference between temporary rentals and hotels. And it forces us to face the conflict between county-level ordinances and a history that has deprived indigenous peoples of their rights and separated them from the land.
Social media campaigns easily miss this nuance and call for action before the fundamental question is addressed: is it really the fight to address these concerns?
Photo courtesy of Michael Baskin
Discussion: 11/9/2018: Do you agree with the county code that a 12 bedroom temporary vacation rental may be allowed to receive special use permits to operate in Country Town business districts such as than Pa’ia, Makawao and Hana Town?
This week we talked about the Protect Pa’ia gathering outside of Pa’ia Inn.
See our article: https://mauitime.com/news/politics/protests-at-paia-inn-owner-claims-activists-spread-misinformation
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