Panel to receive input on home-based business bill

In the next few months, I intend to conduct evening meetings of the County Council’s Planning Committee in several community plan areas for residents to provide testimony on the landmark home-based business bill currently under review.

Since introducing the bill two years ago, it has undergone review by the planning commissions last year and discussion by the committee this year. The legislation is available for review on the Planning Committee website at

The bill’s three primary purposes are to:

* Establish home-based businesses as a permitted use in the residential and rural zoning districts, and as a special use in the agricultural zoning district.

* Establish standards and restrictions for the regulation of home-based businesses.

* Determine methods to minimize the impacts that home businesses will have on neighborhoods

Since September, the committee has reviewed the legislation in three daytime meetings in the Council Chambers.

The committee has heard success stories of entrepreneurs who have grown or sold their businesses into multimillion-dollar enterprises, starting from their garages or dens. This legislation is intended to make it easier for Maui residents to start businesses at home and build their own success stories.

Some revisions were discussed at the Sept. 5 committee meeting, where guest speaker Bradley Johnson, principal planner and president of Ground Rules Inc., provided reports on similar legislation in other communities. Balancing the sometimes competing interests of promoting economic development and preserving neighborhood character is one of the committee’s objectives.

A home-based business may be legal but still considered a nuisance by neighbors. One possible definition of “nuisance” is an activity that arises from “unreasonable” use of property and causes “material annoyance or discomfort” to the neighborhood or public, such as from noise, smoke, odors or garbage.

The Planning Department has expressed concerns about taking on the role of “nuisance police” if the bill says nuisances arising from home-based businesses shall be punishable by the county. According to the Department of the Corporation Counsel, nuisance is generally a private matter between neighbors. In that case, it would be more apt for the legislation to establish a different standard for inappropriate conduct by home-based businesses that shall be subject to enforcement action.

Home-based businesses that don’t qualify as an outright permitted use under the legislation may apply for a county special use permit issued by the respective planning commission. Home-based businesses operating in an agricultural district are also required to get a state special use permit pursuant to Chapter 205 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The committee will also discuss the bill’s impact on real property taxes.

I anticipate further discussion surrounding this bill and welcome input from the community. The committee will be holding community meetings in the near future. If you’d like to be notified of upcoming meetings, please check the website or send email to We look forward to hearing from you.

* Donald G. Couch Jr. holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. He is the chair of the Planning Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.