Liberalize West Maui Plan to encourage more housing
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii advises Maui planners against adding more regulations if they wants more housing
News Release from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
HONOLULU, Sept. 8, 2020 >> The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii today encouraged the Maui Planning Commission to lighten up on all the "shalls" and "requires" in its proposed revisions to West Maui Plan, if adding more housing to the region is really its goal.
Joe Kent, institute executive vice president, noted in his testimony that the original plan, established in 1983, was just 59 pages long and used the word "shall" only four times. The proposed June 2020 draft, he said, is 168 pages long and uses the word “shall” 61 times.
"'This unrestrained use of the word 'shall,'" he said, "could cause confusion among developers trying to navigate the many layers of Maui’s regulatory environment, especially since in some cases … it seems to usurp the Maui County Code."
For example, Kent said, "the current draft of the West Maui Plan states that in the Lahaina National Historic Landmark District, 'New buildings shall be limited to 30 feet in height,' but the Maui County Code limits building heights to 35 feet in Historic District 1 and 2."
Similarly," he said, "use of the word 'require' has increased over time, from six instances in 1983 to 19 in the June 2020 draft."
One particularly egregious example he cited was the proposal:
“Require affordable housing projects, including projects using the Chapter 201H, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes or Chapter 2.97, Maui County Code process, to be near jobs, schools, transit and services, and include sidewalks, parks, bus stops and other infrastructure and pedestrian-oriented design elements that create walkable and livable communities for all.”
This proposed requirement, Kent said, has two problems — at least.
"One is that it would prevent developers from building homes unless they were 'near' jobs, schools, transit services and other urban niceties. The second is that it doesn’t define 'near.'"
He said assuming a reasonable definition of "near'" could be arrived at, "the rule would basically require any housing projects in remote areas to become their own towns in order to meet the requirement that they be 'near' jobs, schools, parks and other city features.
"Additionally, many people on Maui prefer to live in rural areas, such as UpCountry, Hana or Kahakuloa, so this requirement could squash this preferred type of housing."
Finally, Kent said, "it should be noted that public discussion during planning meetings are often attended by existing homeowners, as opposed to renters. We urge the Maui Planning Commission to listen to the concerns of the community, but also to be mindful of the constituents who currently do not have their own homes in West Maui."
He concluded, "As a former West Maui resident myself, who worked as a teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School until housing prices pushed me out, I agree with the research produced by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii that shows fewer land-use and zoning restrictions would encourage, promote, foster and prioritize more housing in West Maui.
"Please consider this more liberal approach to housing creation, since past efforts to conjure up more housing through increased regulations obviously have failed."
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The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit research and educational institution that seeks, in the spirit of “E hana kakou!” (Let’s work together!), to educate people about the values of individual liberty, economic freedom and accountable government.