Ask The Mayor
Q: Why do some of the safety stickers I see on cars have a 2016 expiration year, while others say 2015? And is there a new process for safety checks? I have to take my car in soon and wondered if there are any new requirements. Thanks very much, I appreciate the information in your column.
A: New cars are inspected before they are sold, and come with a safety sticker that is valid for two years. After a new car’s initial two-year period, it will need to be inspected every 12 months, as required by Hawaii’s safety inspection law. Included in this annual inspection requirement are all motor vehicles, including motorcycles, trailers, semitrailers and pole trailers having a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less. According to our Motor Vehicle & Licensing Division administrator, the state Department of Transportation launched the new Electronic Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection program in November 2013. Under the new electronic system, inspection stations must provide automated recording and proof of vehicles’ current inspection results; this allows the statewide motor vehicle registration database to be electronically updated. The new system does not present any new requirements for owners getting their vehicle safety inspected, however it is recommended that you check with the inspection station you’re using in case it has a different procedure for its customers since the implementation of the EPMVI program. The maximum amount that can be charged for a vehicle safety inspection for automobiles and trucks is set by DOT administrative rules at $19.19 plus tax; vehicles with window tinting may be charged an additional $5. Motorcycles and trailers may be charged a maximum of $13.24 plus tax. For each completed safety inspection, $1.70 is remitted to DOT for administration and enforcement of the program, and $1.69 is remitted to the vendor for providing the equipment and technical support.
Q: Why is there no provision for the maintenance of the rainwater retention ponds that the county approves when builders submit plans for housing and commercial projects? The rainwater retention pond across from us has been through two floods and the mud has diminished the depth of the basin. When we asked the housing management company that takes care of the community, they stated that there is no law that mandates them to maintain it. Thank you for looking into this important issue.
A: The short answer to this rather complex question is this: It depends on how long ago the project was approved, and the overall size of the project. Projects approved after 2012 that triggered the new “Stormwater Quality” requirements are required to maintain basins to the county standards that property owners agree to. Larger projects with grading over 1 acre fall under federal requirements for long-term maintenance. However, the county does not have jurisdiction to enforce maintenance with these properties unless unusual circumstances occur, such as flooding onto a county roadway caused by a lack of maintenance of a flood basin. If you observe a retention pond that appears to have deteriorated, you can check whether any conditions were placed on the development by contacting the Planning Department or the Department of Public Works. You can also contact the management company or your property’s deed to find out if your owners’ association is required to maintain the basin. Keep in mind that perpetual requirements such as these are usually passed along from the developer to the owners’ association because once the project is completed, the developer no longer owns any interest in the property.
Q: Are there any plans for more frequent buses or other changes for commuters who ride the Upcountry bus?
A: Not at this time. Our County of Maui Department of Transportation has received requests for additional commuter services for riders in the Upcountry area, however transfer site and timing issues must resolved before any changes can be made to the existing fixed-route schedule.
Ask The Mayor
Q: I recently found out that Kauai is no longer the wettest place on Earth, now Maui is. For years it used to be Mount Waialeale on Kauai but now it’s some place called the Big Bog near Haleakala National Park. So my question is: If Maui has so much water, why do we have water problems? Can’t we build something to collect water at the “wettest place on Earth,” and then distribute it to our residents and farmers Upcountry? And wouldn’t this be high enough that the water would flow downhill and there would be no pumping costs? Just seems like we have the answer to all of our water problems right in front of us and nobody is doing anything about it.
A: Your question very accurately illustrates that we do not have a water shortage on Maui; we have an infrastructure shortage. It is absolutely possible from a technical perspective to build a system to move water as you suggest. In fact, a similar, but less extensive ditch system already exists that brings water from the eastern end of the island to Upcountry water users and the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. fields. A water delivery system as you described would be very, very expensive and would need to overcome some difficult environmental hurdles. The Maui County Department of Water Supply is currently moving forward with a systematic plan to provide water to meet future needs. Although the plan does not include a system such as the one above, we can improve our infrastructure in a manner that our community can afford.
Q: Pray tell, when will Kaupakalua Road ever be repaved? The road damages our wheel bearings, suspension and tires on our cars, and the patches all wash out when it rains. It needs to be properly repaved. When will this happen? Thank you.
A: We currently have Kaupakalua scheduled for resurfacing in segments during fiscal years 2015 through 2017. It will start from the Makawao Avenue intersection and end at Hana Highway. Due to the cost of repaving a long road like this, coupled with the limited resurfacing funds available, we will have to repave it in sections over a period of a couple years.
Q: What kind of help is there for someone who has a problem with their neighbor’s barking dogs? I’m not talking about a little bit of barking, I mean the small dogs are barking constantly throughout the day and then the big dog barks nonstop from sundown till all hours of the morning. It may not seem like a big problem compared to other problems out there, but when you can’t get a good night’s sleep and then the dogs bark all day, too, after a few days you start to go a little crazy. Please, there has to be something that can be done – I am at the end of my rope.
A: To report excessive barking, you must first document the barking to prove that it violates county law. An audio or video recording of approximately 10 minutes of continuous barking or 20 minutes of intermittent barking will suffice. You should also document the days/times you hear the barking, so you can include that information with the recording to the Maui Humane Society’s Field Operations Department with the appropriate complaint form. The form is available at the humane society or online at www.mauihumanesociety.org (click on “Services & Programs” then hover over “Field Operations-Animal Control” and “Barking Complaints”). If you have questions or need assistance with the form, you can call Maui Humane Society at 877-3680. According to the MHS website, after a documented barking complaint is received, an MHS field officer will attempt to work with the dog’s owner to resolve the situation; this process takes a minimum of six weeks. If this is not effective, the field officer will complete a report that gets sent to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office, not MHS or its field officers, makes the decision on whether to take further action. (A barking violation can carry up to a $500 fine; dogs are never impounded solely for barking complaints.)
Ask The Mayor
Q: I thought campaign signs were not allowed yet. Is it legal for the huge “small-billboarding” of Maui for “Schatz” signs to be up already?
A: Yes, it is legal for the signs to be up now, because there are no time restrictions on campaign signs. According to state law, campaign signs are exempt from many of the regulations pertaining to signage, billboards and commercial advertising. Maui County Code Section 16.12A.030 limits signs to 18 square feet in display surface; it previously included time restrictions on how long signs could be posted. However, Act 194, signed into law in June 2003, amended HRS Sec. 445-112(11) to remove any time limits on the posting of political signs; this act superseded the Maui County Code. And while there is currently no law requiring signs to be removed following the elections, hopefully conscientious candidates will remove any signs they put up during campaign season.
Q: I am a bicycle commuter along Makawao Avenue. I appreciate the repaving that has been done on sections of the road in the last few years, but the section that begins just west of Eddie Tam complex has not been repaved and is extremely dangerous on a bicycle. Are there plans to repave this section? If so, approximately when will the work begin and end?
A: The section of Makawao Avenue you described, west of Eddie Tam Gym, is anticipated to be done with the Makawao-Makani Road Improvements project in fiscal year 2017.
Q: What’s up with all the incomplete roadwork? Why are these projects taking so long to complete? On Wakea heading toward University of Hawaii Maui College, lanes going toward the college are incomplete. Make that, not even started and it’s been this way for months. Wakea Avenue resurfacing ends just before the Christ the King driveway instead of Puunene Avenue. Honoapiilani Highway has a long stretch of road that looks just as ugly as it was before any work was done, and it’s been this way for over a month now. That segment is not complete and roadwork is starting at the Dairy Road side of Kuihelani Highway?
A: With roadwork, coordinating projects is an important factor in determining when work is scheduled. For example, the ends of Wakea Avenue intersect at the state-controlled intersections at Kaahumanu and Puunene avenues near UH-Maui College and Christ the King. Because of the heavy school traffic, these two sections of Wakea Avenue will be completed when students are on school break in March so traffic volumes are expected to be lower. Motorists are asked to heed all detour signs when approaching work areas. Work on Wakea Avenue during spring break is scheduled as follows:
* Kahiki Street to Puunene Avenue, Monday to Wednesday, complete road closure for both directions of traffic. On Wednesday expect closure to eastbound traffic only (traffic headed toward intersection). The Christ the King Church driveway is directly affected by this work and the contractor is working out a schedule to help minimize the impact.
* Kea Street to Kaahumanu Avenue, Wednesday to Friday, complete road closure to northbound traffic only (traffic headed toward UH-MC).
All work in both areas is expected to be completed by late afternoon Friday.
As for Honoapiilani Highway, that is a state-controlled highway; the county does not have jurisdiction over state projects. To contact the state Department of Transportation, visit hidot.hawaii.gov/highways.
Ask The Mayor
Q: I have a question about the “Kingdom of Hawai’i” license plates I see on various kinds of vehicles and in different colors. Are these plates legal? If not, why are the vehicles allowed to be driven on county and state roads? I’ve lived here for 40 years and have always wondered: If the owners of those vehicles aren’t required to have a Hawaii registration and license plate, why does everyone else have to?
A: Thank you for asking, as I’m sure many other drivers have wondered about this too. Hawaii law mandates that every owner of a motor vehicle operated on public highways must pay the annual taxes and fees at the time of registration in the county where the vehicle is to be operated (HRS 286-41(a), 249-2). The law also requires that all vehicles for which a tax has been paid be issued two license plates. The current design of the specialty and numbered plates contain the word “Hawaii” along the upper portion of the plate, the words “Aloha State” along the lower portion of the plate, and the drawing of a rainbow diagonally across the plate (HRS 249-9). Owners are required to securely fasten the license plates on the vehicle, one on the front and the other on the rear, at a location provided by the manufacturer (HRS 249-7). According to the Maui Police Department, enforcement has been steady, with citations issued for license plates that do not conform to the laws specified above. A total of 1,229 citations have been issued for license plate violations since Dec. 1, 2012, which would include the Kingdom of Hawaii plates you have seen on the road.
Q: When will the last segment of Kamehameha Avenue in Kahului (from Kane Street to Wakea Avenue) be rebuilt and resurfaced? The remnant ledge in the pavement at Kamehameha and Wakea avenues jars my lower spine every time I have to drive over it.
A: Eliminating the difference in elevation at the intersection of Kamehameha and Wakea avenues was part of the last phase of construction work in our road rehabilitation project on Kamehameha Avenue. It was necessary to coordinate the work, resources and timing of
this road rehabilitation project due to the fact that two other projects were underway in the area. First was the installation of a waterline along Wakea Avenue by a private landowner. The second project was the installation of underground features of a new traffic signal at the Kamehameha Avenue-Kane Street intersection. Both of these projects and the road rehabilitation have all been completed. Coordination between county and private projects along our right-of-way can be a challenge at times, but our engineers are up for that challenge
and work very hard at establishing positive working relationships with all parties, including motorists who drive on county roads each day.
Q: When Lower Honoapiilani Road was resurfaced this past year, a crosswalk was added on the northern end of Honokowai Park, where all the kids cross to the apartments on the mauka side of the street. My concern is that the crosswalk is adjacent to a parking stall, and if you are coming from Napili toward Lahaina, you cannot see the children step out from behind a parked car or truck in that stall. The “No Parking” sign needs to be located one stall further toward Napili to allow drivers to see pedestrians entering the crosswalk. I do not see any other crosswalks that are adjacent to a parking stall. Thanks for taking a look at this.
A: According to our Department of Public Works – Engineering Division, an upcoming project to install speed tables in the area will include the removal of the parking stall you mentioned, which is closest to the crosswalk.
Ask The Mayor
Q: I was devastated to hear about the terrible plane crash on Lanai. I watched the mayor’s news conference on TV, but wondered why the county couldn’t release the names of the victims when that information was already circulating in the news and in social media?
A: Yes, we were all devastated by the news. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and our prayers are with the three county employees who survived the crash. Maui Police Department is responsible for identifying remains and releasing that information to the public once it is confirmed. Their investigators accomplish this through a number of ways, but it must be backed up by science/medical examination. In some cases, positive identification cannot be made without some extreme measures, such as comparing dental records or even testing DNA. When this happens, it delays the release of information. However, these steps are necessary in order to make positive identification, and we support the department’s protocol.
Q: I bought a home and moved to Maui in October 2012. This is my permanent address so I filled out the homeowner exemption form before the Dec. 31, 2012, deadline and received my lower tax bill during 2013. Now, I’m told I was not eligible for the exemption in 2013 because my 2012 Hawaii state tax return was a part-time resident (N-15) form. If I am applying for the homeowner rate for 2013, why are they looking at 2012? That means a new-to-Maui resident will have to wait over a year, and possibly two years depending on what month they moved to qualify for the homeowner exemption. Is that what the Maui code intended?
A: You can qualify for the real property tax homeowner exemption the assessment year after moving to Maui. If you moved here in 2012 you can qualify for the homeowner exemption in 2013 if you file a N-11 (full-time resident) Hawaii state individual income tax return for 2012 and meet the other criteria. Maui County Code 3.48.450 specifies that the very generous homeowner exemption is intended for those who meet all of the following criteria: Occupy the home as your primary residence; do not rent entire premises for any portion of the year; file an N-11 Hawaii state individual income tax return for the year prior to receiving the exemption (nonresident and part-year resident N-15 forms do not qualify); and real property taxes are not delinquent. It should be noted that these criteria apply to everyone who is receiving a homeowner exemption, not just new applicants or people who just moved here.
Q: I have a new neighbor who is a contractor and uses his residential address in Kahului to advertise his business online. Vehicles from this property are parked for a week at a time in front of my house, making it unsafe for me to back out of my own driveway. A typical day starts at 5:30 a.m. with employees reporting to work, parking their personal vehicles in front of surrounding homes. The piercing sounds of backup horns blare out at 6 a.m. while trucks are loaded with supplies. By 6:30 a.m., power tools and hand tools scream, pound and vibrate as materials are cut and prepped. By 7 a.m. the owner is barking instructions to his employees. Because his property is converted into a base yard/workshop, the noise continues into the evening, until 9:30 or 10 p.m. The next day it all starts up again, 6 or 7 days a week. Is this type of commercial operation legal in a neighborhood zoned “residential”? Are there any county compliance issues involved, especially in regards to noise and vehicle parking? As a neighbor, what rights do I have against this type of commercial operation? Thanks for your time, and I always enjoy reading “Ask the Mayor.”
A: County Code does not allow commercial operations such as the one you described in residential areas unless the owner has a conditional permit that must be granted by the County Council. The law was designed to protect residents from noise, parking issues and other impacts of businesses that don’t belong in neighborhoods. The Zoning Administration and Enforcement Division of the Planning Department is tasked with enforcing state and county land use laws, rules, codes, regulations and the general and community plans. The division receives complaints from the public in the form of a Request for Service that can be filed online at www.mauicounty.gov/RFS, by calling the division at 270-7253, or in person at One Main Plaza (2200 Main St., Suite 335, Wailuku). Please keep in mind that the county’s policy does not allow anonymous complaints to be investigated, and that the name of the person filing the complaint will be disclosed to the alleged offender upon request. So to answer your final question, you have the right to file an RFS complaint with the understanding that if your contractor neighbor asks who filed the complaint, your identity will be disclosed.