Wide range of issues before the council on Tuesday

Should transient vacation rentals be allowed, subject to a special use permit, in the neighborhood business zoning district?

Should county council members and mayors throughout the state once again ask the state for the return of more tax revenue to the counties where it’s earned?

Should the harvesting of industrial hemp be encouraged?

These are some of the diverse issues to be discussed at Tuesday’s County Council meeting.

As part of the county’s ongoing effort to modernize and streamline the zoning code, the Planning Committee has recommended passage of bill to modify standards in the “B-1 Neighborhood Business District.” This district generally allows for retail and service businesses that “meet the daily needs of the neighborhood.”

Short-term rental homes and bed-and-breakfast homes with permits are currently allowed in the district. The committee concluded TVRs of up to 20 rooms should also be allowed, if a special use permit is granted, giving all categories of visitor accommodations the same standard.

A similar zoning bill, relating to the “B-CT Country Town Business District,” is also on the agenda. If both bills get enacted, they will be the eighth and ninth ordinances to update the zoning code so far during this council term.

The council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has a report on Tuesday’s agenda recommending adoption of a resolution on the distribution of transient accommodations tax revenue back to the counties during the 2015 state legislative session.

In the 2014 session, thanks to extensive lobbying by elected officials from all four counties, legislators agreed to return to counties a bigger share of TAT revenue. Instead of eliminating the artificial cap on the counties’ TAT revenue, the state merely raised the counties’ collective share of TAT revenue from $83 million to $93 million.

The current system of revenue sharing doesn’t adequately compensate county taxpayers for the investments made to support the visitor industry. Through public safety, transportation infrastructure and maintenance of beaches and other parks, counties provide the services that make visiting Hawaii a safe and pleasant experience.

Several council members attended the “Hemp Is Hope” conference at University of Hawaii-Maui College on Aug. 9. Presenters extolled the potential economic and environmental benefits of industrial hemp, a renewable crop that currently can’t be grown under federal law, except for research purposes.

Led by journalist Doug Fine, the conference provided information on hemp’s possible use in building material (“hempcrete”), food products and clothing. Brief reports on the conference will be provided at Tuesday’s council meeting, and policy issues relating to industrial hemp may be referred to committee.

As stated in Resolution 14-64, which recognized June 2-8 as “National Industrial Hemp History Week” in Maui County, industrial hemp carries only insignificant traces of the psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana, a distinct but related plant. The resolution also noted that “the United States is the world’s largest importer of hemp products.”

The state is looking at related issues. Act 56 (2014) authorized a study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa on the viability of industrial hemp as a biofuel feedstock, with a report due prior to the 2016 legislative session.

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.