Panel seeks more reasonable parking and ohana rules

Flexibility sought in cases where current mandates don’t make sense

Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean answers questions during a Maui Planning Commission meeting Tuesday. The Planning Department is proposing several changes to its parking, ohana and special management area use permit rules to update old policies and to allow greater flexibility. -- The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

WAILUKU — When Larry Hudson was a captain with the Maui Police Department in 2009, he was tasked with converting garage space at the department’s forensic facility into freezer units for cadavers. But, since the project was turning parking into “office space,” the county required him to add more parking stalls.

“I informed the Planning Department that the people that are in there aren’t driving there,” said Hudson, now a member of the Maui Planning Commission.

It’s unique situations like Hudson’s that illustrate why the county Planning Department is trying to update its parking code, a stiff set of rules that do not allow much flexibility for different projects, Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean told the commission Tuesday.

The department is working to overhaul its parking, ohana and special management area permit rules. McLean gave a “sneak peek” Tuesday of the proposed changes, which will return to the commission and the Maui County Council once a bill is ready.

Parking: Better flexibility

“Over time we’ve seen that some uses are required to provide more parking than we believe they need,” McLean said. “They ask us to reduce their parking requirements, which we don’t have the authority to do. We’ve also found some that the current parking requirements are insufficient.”

Proposed changes to the parking code would give the department more leeway. It would also decrease parking requirements for several categories, including agricultural structures, apartments and duplexes, restaurants, churches, motels and multifamily dwellings. Required parking would increase for other categories, including auditoriums, community centers, sports facilities, hospitals, hotels and single-family dwellings.

McLean said existing developments would be grandfathered in.

Changes also would allow:

• Alternative paving surfaces, such as permeable concrete and grasscrete.

• Neighboring businesses with different operating hours, for example, a bank and a nightclub, to share parking spaces.

• Flexibility for projects that increase capacity but keep the same number of users, such as schools that add buildings for existing students.

• Flexibility for landscaping requirements on carports and parking garages, where it’s “very difficult to find places for trees,” McLean said. (One tree is required for every five stalls.)

Ohanas: Allowing more

Ohana units, which can go up to 1,000 square feet, play a key role in addressing Maui’s housing needs and allow growing families to stay in their homes, McLean said. The goal is to allow more ohanas to be built and to “make them more livable.”

Proposed changes would allow ohanas to be built on any size lot, rather than only on lots 7,500 square feet or larger, as well as to allow two ohanas on lots of 12,000 square feet or larger rather than only one.

The department also is looking to increase the maximum size of most ohanas by 100 square feet, to increase the maximum size of uncovered decks and to allow ohanas to have carports or garages for up to two cars.

McLean said she knows a family in Makawao with three kids living in a 700-square-foot ohana.

“They love the neighborhood. They love their house. It’s just too small,” she said. “If they could increase the size of that just a little bit, they would stay there forever.”

Changes also would prohibit new short-term rental homes or bed-and-breakfasts in ohanas, though the main house would still be allowed to continue existing operations. McLean said Mayor Alan Arakawa has proposed this before, with the goal of keeping ohanas available for housing.

McLean said changes to ohana rules would not apply to agricultural districts.

Permits: Excusing small projects

Once in a while, people will call the Planning Department and ask whether they need to apply for a special management area use permit for minor projects, like replacing a mailbox post.

“Right now we tell them, ‘I wish you hadn’t called me, but since you did, I have to tell you yes,’ ” McLean said.

SMA permits apply to projects along the shoreline. Every year, the Planning Department issues between 350 to 500 SMA permit exemptions “for extremely minor actions,” McLean said. What the department hopes to do instead is change the rules to “really spell out the kind of uses that don’t need to go through that assessment process,” such as replacing doors and windows, adding solar panels to an existing roof or replacing a driveway.

Other proposals include:

• Allowing the director to approve permit transfers and time extensions up to five years.

• Changing the SMA emergency permit process, including expanding the criteria for issuing permits and requiring applicants to provide a long-term plan within 90 days to improve the shoreline or structures.

• Giving the department other options for serving notices of violation, including publishing in the newspaper or posting on the property. It’s common for alleged violators to not sign for their certified mail when the department sends them notices, McLean said.

McLean said the tentative goal is to bring the draft changes to parking and ohana rules back to the commission on April 24, and to the Molokai and Lanai planning commissions in May. She hoped to bring the permit changes — which would only apply to Maui — before the Maui Planning Commission in the fall.

McLean said the department wants to “get these three things accomplished this year” before Arakawa’s term ends.

For links to the proposed changes, visit mauicounty.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/24672.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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