Planning panel advances special fund for shoreline issues

Revolving fund would gain revenue from application fees and fines

County Council Planning Committee Chairwoman Kelly King addresses council members during a meeting Thursday. The committee recommended approval of a bill that would create a special management area revolving fund to address shoreline issues like coastal erosion and beach access. • The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

WAILUKU — A special fund that could bring in more than $100,000 for shoreline-related issues passed through a County Council committee on Thursday.

The Planning Committee voted 6-0 to recommend passage of a bill to create a special management area revolving fund. It would draw revenue from application fees and fines for violations along Maui County’s shorelines.

“Our coastlines are facing so many challenges, and the community and our agencies are always left scrambling to provide solutions to erosion, beach access, etc., with limited or no resources,” said Lahaina resident Kai Nishiki, who worked with Council Member Elle Cochran to propose the revolving fund.

Nishiki said the idea grew out of the Mahinahina Beach condominiums, where owners had to pay $100,000 in fines to the county and demolish unpermitted structures at the 32-unit complex in Honokowai.

Deputy Planning Director Joseph Alueta said that fines for special management violations generate about $25,000 to $75,000 each year. Meanwhile, application fees for special management area assessments, permits and shoreline setback variances bring in about $60,000 to $70,000 annually. Those fees currently go into the general fund but would go to the new revolving fund, if approved. Grants and donations could also go toward the fund.

Stacy Crivello

“We should utilize these funds that come off of our shoreline issues into creating solutions for our shoreline issues,” Cochran said, adding that the money could help address sea level rise, beach restoration, coastal retreat and purchasing lands for easements and beach access.

Council Member Riki Hokama, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, supported the bill but wanted to make sure the fines came back to the county and not the state, since they are collected per state rules. Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Hopper explained the county has collected those fines in the past.

“I don’t know of any case where those fines have gone to the state,” he said.

Jeffrey Dack of the Current Planning Division said that use of the funds “would be determined through the normal annual budget process.” Every year, the planning staff creates a list of priorities that the director chooses to be included in the mayor’s proposed budget.

The bill also calls for the Finance Department director to keep track of all revenues and expenses, and it requires appropriations from the fund to be passed by the council. Any money left over at the end of the year remains in the fund; it does not lapse.

Nishiki said that “the next step is to get our regulatory agencies, our planning agencies and our community members who live along our coastlines to start to think holistically about coastline protection and managed retreat in response to sea level rise.”

“It’s a big task, but we are up to it,” she said. “As an island community, we don’t really have a choice.”

On Thursday, the committee also discussed a bill that would remove the county’s requirement to create a Kahoolawe Community Plan. Committee Chairwoman Kelly King said it’s likely to become an issue as the county updates all of its plans. Maui County has limited jurisdiction over Kahoolawe, and the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission essentially “performs many of the functions that the County of Maui would normally perform,” Hopper explained.

He said the county created a Kahoolawe community plan in 1982 and another in 1995, a year after the creation of the commission.

“It’s still a valid plan,” Hopper said. “But it really does not have a legal effect . . . because it’s governed by the state, administered by the state.”

However, council members were hesitant to do away with Kahoolawe’s plan. Council Member Stacy Crivello said Kahoolawe holds an important historical and spiritual place in the county. Her brother, George Helm, and Kimo Mitchell disappeared off Kahoolawe in 1977 during the rise of the aloha aina movement and the efforts to save Kahoolawe from bombing.

“To me (Kahoolawe) is the history and catalyst that we all look at today,” Crivello said.

“I feel that Kahoolawe is a beacon of light . . . and it has and continues to raise the political awareness that we have today.”

Hokama agreed that “whether or not we actually get to utilize the island in the future, I think it’s something we should consider, because I think there’s an opportunity for residents of our county to have Kahoolawe be a more active part.”

The committee deferred action, and King said she planned to meet with the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission to discuss the issue.

“It’s good to hear from the committee members about the connection to Kahoolawe, because I think that supersedes the idea of dropping it off the list,” King said.

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

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