What's New in Planning on Maui - Spring 2020

By Jennifer Maydan, AICP

Zoning Code Rewrite

The Title 19 Zoning Code Rewrite project, which seeks to comprehensively update Maui County's Zoning Code, kicked off in February 2020 with staff, County Council committee and planning commission meetings on Maui, Lanai and Molokai. Project lead Orion Planning + Design, sub-consultant PBR Hawaii and planning department staff gave presentations on the findings and recommendations of the 2018 Title 19 Zoning Code Audit, the goals of the T19 project, its four-year timeline, and opportunities for public participation. Currently the team is working on reorganizing the code and drafting zoning chapters in preparation for the consultant team’s return next year.

Vacation Rentals

The County of Maui is contemplating steps to manage the transient vacation rental industry.  The civil fines for unpermitted operations were increased to $20,000 for the initial fine and $10,000 for the daily fine, effective late last year.  The increases were first approved by voters in the 2018 election, then were included in the Maui County Code and the Department of Planning’s administrative rules in December 2019.

The Department of Planning held a series of meetings earlier this year to gather input regarding the possibility of phasing out short-term rental homes in single-family dwellings (non-owner occupied vacation rental).  At one public meeting, the audience of owners and operators were strongly opposed to any limitations, even with a proposed compromise to loosen regulations regarding bed and breakfast home rentals (owner occupied vacation rental) so that more operators could qualify for this type of permit instead.

For the island of Molokai, the Maui County Council passed an ordinance that eliminates short-term rental homes by the end of this calendar year.  The Council is also proposing to reduce the number of short-term rental home permits in other areas, and this proposal will be circulated to the Maui and Lanai Planning Commissions in June.

In addition, the Department of Planning is working to close a loophole in the current rules that would otherwise allow older properties in the Apartment District to convert to transient vacation rentals.  Maui, like the rest of the state, cannot keep up with providing housing to its residents, and the intent of the apartment district is long-term residential use, so it makes sense to try to save some of these units for residential use.

The COVID-19 pandemic will certainly change the conversation on vacation rentals, and tourism in general, and the Department of Planning will do its best to carry out its mission to “manage growth in a sustainable manner that balances our economy, culture and the environment” in a world of “new normal.”

West Maui Community Plan

At the end of May, the West Maui Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) concluded their review of the Draft West Maui Community Plan.  The CPAC is a diverse group of West Maui residents that dedicated ten months of their time crafting a document to make West Maui a better place into the future.  They helped to amplify the community’s voice in the Draft Plan, and the County of Maui is grateful for their service.  The updated Draft Plan will be available online in early summer and then the Maui Planning Commission will begin their review before handing it off to the County Council for final adoption.  For more information, visit wearemaui.org.

South Maui Community Plan

The South Maui Community Plan update is officially underway, with the County and consultants (led by Belt Collins Hawaiʻi) busily working on the research and reports needed prior to public engagement beginning in late summer. With COVID-19, the team is making adjustments in how to engage with each other and the community to make sure that this plan reflects the voice of the people, accounts for an uncertain future and meets the community’s needs for the next 20 years. The goal is to ensure that the quality and usefulness of this plan is not sacrificed because the way business is conducted has changed. The people of South Maui deserve a strong plan that will help them achieve their vision, so the update team is working hard to find new and innovative ways to engage them in myriad of ways throughout the process. The Department of Planning is optimistic and enthusiastic about this adventure!

Bulbout at the corner of Onehe'e Avenue and Uhu Street in Kahului created by Maui County as part of a Complete Streets demonstration project.

Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) approved the Hele Mai Maui 2040 Transportation Plan in December 2019, which includes priority projects and programs to meet Maui’s transportation goals around safety, health and climate resilience. The plan serves as a foundation for upcoming efforts around the Vision Zero strategy to eliminate traffic deaths on Maui and improve equity in transportation through education, enforcement and engineering. To follow up on a successful pedestrian safety project on Onehe’e Avenue in 2019, Maui MPO plans to collaborate with the Departments of Public Works, Planning, and Transportation to create “quick build” street improvements that make it safer and more inviting for people to walk and bike places. For more information, visit mauimpo.org