Published in The Maui News, February 14, 2016
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News
As Maui County continues to grow, the County Council is taking steps to plan for future transportation needs.
The council on Feb. 5 passed on first reading Bills 10 and 11 to appropriate more than $300,000 for a South Maui Regional Traffic Master Plan. The federal government will provide an equal level of funding to support the plan, which will evaluate the Kihei-Makena region’s long-term transportation needs.
The bills will be considered on second and final reading at the next council meeting on Feb. 26.
The council also will consider the creation of the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization, as recommended by the Housing and Human Services Committee, chaired by Council Member Stacy Crivello. The committee has been evaluating the proposal since receiving it from the administration in December.
The MMPO will facilitate joint state-county transportation planning and expedite federal funding for projects on the island of Maui.
Bill 14, to promote advertising in the Maui Bus, also will be considered. As noted in the committee report issued by the Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Council Member Riki Hokama, this will generate revenue for the highway fund, thereby reducing the need for real property taxpayers to subsidize transportation programs.
Bills 8 and 9, appropriating $400,000 for Keanae Road improvements, are also up for second reading on Feb. 26. The mauka slopes of the road may need buffer zones or netting to prevent falling rocks.
The council is meeting in Lanai City on March 12 for a public hearing on the updated Lanai Community Plan. The meeting agenda, the plan and related documents are available at mauicounty.us/lanaicommunityplan.
By resolution 16-9, the council has referred a bill on agricultural tourism to the Lanai, Maui and Molokai planning commissions for review and comment. The bill, introduced by Council Vice Chair Don Guzman, would allow visitor accommodations and attractions as accessory uses on farms, subject to certain restrictions.
For some, ag tourism could provide enough supplemental revenue to allow their land to remain in farming. The question before the planning commissions, and then the council, is how to appropriately balance economic development and farmland conservation.
Meanwhile, the council continues to track state legislation affecting county government and county residents. The Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee had a lively debate last Tuesday on the counties’ lobbying strategy during the current state legislative session.
Committee Chairman Mike Victorino allowed me to present the history of the transient accommodations tax, which was initiated as a source of revenue for the counties and has since been used as a means of balancing the state budget. A state working group recommended that the state continue to retain a majority of TAT revenue, while I contend the counties should receive at least as much TAT revenue as the state.
* Mike White is chairman of the Maui County Council and vice chairman of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.