Community plan updates set for Molokai, West Maui

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

This past Tuesday, the County Council’s Planning Committee continued its review of the Molokai Community Plan. The special meeting on Molokai allowed the committee to hear directly from residents on an updated blueprint for their island’s future.

Molokai’s community plan was last updated in 2001. The current update will incorporate statements of the major problems and opportunities concerning the needs and development of the community, including specific urban and rural growth areas. The plan has already been vetted by the Molokai Community Plan Advisory Committee and the Molokai Planning Commission.

As the Planning Committee goes through its own review, it is my hope that both council members and the public respect much of the work that has already been done at both the advisory and commission level. Any further changes since the initial review must be properly vetted by the cross section of the community that it impacts.

It is important to follow a very public process in crafting the community plans and to allow ample time for review, especially for Molokai, given that residents are on a different island from where the Planning Committee regularly meets.

In the end, the plan must garner a consensus and set a path forward that will help to guide government in a way that meets the needs of residents.

December is the deadline set to adopt a revised Molokai plan, but it will be extended if necessary.

Throughout both the general plan and community plan update process, timeliness has been a continual concern. Maui County has nine community plan areas and the Maui County Code requires a review every 10 years.

In practical terms, from start to finish, the Lanai Community Plan began in 2010 and finally concluded in July 2016. The Molokai process began in November 2014 and hopefully will conclude in the coming months. It takes time to develop a process, but if three years is used as the average amount of time to update each plan, updates will not be completed until somewhere in the mid-2030s, well past the time when the Lanai plan must be updated again in 2026.

The major concern with the current pace is that these planning documents will not reflect the timely needs of the community. When the update process was first introduced by then-Council Member Charmaine Tavares in the early 2000s, the intention was to improve the process and encourage more frequent updates.

At this time, the oldest plan is for the Hana community, which was last updated in 1994, followed by Paia-Haiku, updated in 1995, both over 20 years ago.

Last year, the mayor halted work on the West Maui Community Plan to allow the Department of Planning to identify ways to improve the update process. Although there was no major overhaul, some progress was made.

Both the county and the community must continually identify innovative solutions. There must be a better way to keep community input intact while keeping our planning documents relevant.

As work resumes on the West Maui plan, I urge interested members of the public to get involved and share input. Community planning meetings have already been scheduled in October covering the topics of infrastructure and coastal resilience. To see a schedule of the events for the West Maui plan, visit wearemaui.org.

Planning for our future is critical, but it must also be practical — and most importantly, relevant to meet the needs of both today and our future.

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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