LUC vacancies not affecting Maui planners

At least for now, Maui County’s Planning Department and those in the planning and development field say they haven’t seen or heard of any problems on Maui because of the recent inability of the state Land Use Commission to meet and enforce state zoning laws that may or may not allow construction projects to proceed.

The state LUC as well as a variety of other state boards and commissions are facing a shortage of members and a lack of quorum, as those serving on state panels have resigned recently. Their resignations have come because of Hawaii’s new public disclosure law that requires information on income, investments, debt and real estate holdings.

On Wednesday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the appointment of Honolulu resident Jonathan Scheuer to an at-large seat on the LUC.

This brings the LUC’s membership total to four, one short of the five needed to schedule a meeting and two members short of the necessary total for making decisions, said Abercrombie spokesman Justin Fujioka in an email.

“Filling the remaining vacancies on the Land Use Commission remains a top priority,” Fujioka said.

County Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean said in an email Tuesday: “We have not heard any complaints or concerns from applicants at this point and have not had any delays from our perspective – but it may be too soon for these to have arisen yet.”

McLean said she knew of at least two Maui projects that need a review by the LUC, but she wasn’t sure of their timelines.

Michael Munekiyo, president of the planning firm, Munekiyo & Hiraga Inc., said that his firm’s clients are not being affected by the commissions’ inability to meet.

He added that the land use entitlements process can be complex and time consuming.

“With that in mind, we look forward to the LUC’s timely organization and resumption of deliberations on their various docket items,” Munekiyo said.

Developer Charlie Jencks said he recently had projects heard before the commission and the next pending project before the LUC, the Piilani Promenade – a mixed-use project including homes and retail – is not yet due before the panel.

“We got a ways to go before we would be back to the commission anyway,” Jencks said Tuesday.

He did not know of any project that was being held up because of the LUC’s inability to meet.

But Jencks expected that Abercrombie was probably not going to “have this stuff lay around,” and that new members would be found soon as it impacts people’s ability to get things done.

Fujioka said five members are needed for the LUC to hold a meeting, but it needs six members, or a 2/3 vote, of the nine-member panel for decision-making.

Fujioka said there have been five resignations from the LUC in the past two weeks. Another member’s term expired on June 30, and the commissioner asked not to be held over. At the beginning of this week, there were six vacancies on the LUC.

According to the commission’s website, its members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. One member is appointed from each of the four counties. Five members are appointed at-large. Commissioners are nonpaid volunteers who represent a cross-section of the community.

The bill that now makes public the annual financial disclosure statements of people serving on state boards or commission was unanimously approved by the Legislature.

Abercrombie had it on a list of bills he would potentially veto, however, he let the bill become law without his signature and asked people to apply for the vacancies that the new rules would create.

In addition to the LUC, Abercrombie on Wednesday announced the appointment of two new members to the board of directors of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp.

The appointments are effective immediately but are interim and subject to state Senate approval.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at