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City Council committee defers bill on land use fines

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The City Council Executive Matters and Legislative Affairs Committee on Tuesday deferred Bill 50, which would have given the Council the authority to determine how much in fines should be paid by those who violate city land use laws.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Stanley Chang, arose from concerns raised by neighbors of violators. Jeannie Ota, of the Aina Haina Community Association, said an illegal wedding chapel operating out of a home illegally incurred more than $100,000 in fines. But a settlement allowed the operator to pay only $5,000. The operator then moved elsewhere in the neighborhood and continued operations, Ota said.

Lawrence Bartley, whose group Save Oahu’s Neighborhoods fights illegal bed-and-breakfast establishments and transient vacation units, said the current system is not working. “There’s no dis-incentive, there’s not enough enforcement and the penalties are too light,” he said.

Administration officials objected vehemently to the bill, arguing that compliance and not punishment is the key goal.

And when violators continually or repeatedly ignore laws, the city can and has used liens and foreclosures against them, Deputy Planning Director Art Challacombe said.

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