Published in The Maui News, September 28, 2014
By GLADYS C. BAISA for The Maui News
The Maui County Council will consider a fast-track affordable-housing application on Friday at 9 a.m., while a council committee continues to work on overall housing strategy. The council also will begin to consider whether the unregulated, online market in vacation rentals is hurting legal operators.
Review the agenda.
The Hale Mahaolu Ewalu senior-housing project, located near the Kulamalu Town Center in Pukalani, was recommended for approval by the Land Use Committee after a site inspection and two meetings in the Council Chambers. The council’s deadline to act on the proposal is Oct. 9.
The project is proposed under Chapter 201H, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which provides developers of qualified affordable-housing projects the opportunity to receive exemptions from certain laws relating to planning, zoning, construction and development under an expedited review process. The committee, chaired by Council Member Robert Carroll, worked on redrafting exemptions to ensure the project won’t be stymied by inapt regulations.
Related: Hale Mahaolu cites management experience in senior housing, says Ewalu project will have minimal traffic impacts in Pukalani
Meanwhile, the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee continues to review the county’s Residential Workforce Housing Policy. On Sept. 18, the committee received testimony on how to amend the ordinance to ensure more affordable units are developed.
Some testifiers asserted the requirements imposed on developers by the policy actually inhibit housing construction. Council Member Stacy Crivello, who chairs the committee, pledged to consult with community stakeholders, then schedule another public meeting to take action on proposed amendments.
In recent years, the council has enacted ordinances to legalize various forms of visitor accommodations, including bed-and-breakfast homes, short-term-rental homes and transient vacation rentals in appropriate areas. Proprietors who have made the effort to follow these laws and operate legal visitor accommodations should be commended and rewarded.
Instead, many of them feel like the opposite is happening, as those operating illegal visitor accommodations have been able to skirt the law and make profits that should be going to legal operators. The proliferation of websites such as Airbnb may be exacerbating the problem.
I have placed on Friday’s council agenda an item to facilitate discussion on this issue. I look forward to working with the administration and my colleagues in reviewing how other municipalities have addressed similar concerns and determining the best course of action for Maui County.
I am excited to announce that the Office of Council Services recently launched a website at mauicounty.us to better inform the public of all the latest news from the Maui County Council. The site will provide up-to-the-minute council happenings in a format that allows users to view the site on a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets.
The new site also includes features to make it useful for readers with disabilities, and posts are easy to share using social media buttons. Residents are invited to take a look at the site and provide comments on Twitter @mauicounty.
A hui hou.
* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.
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