Council’s work in full swing as the new year begins

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

Hau’oli makahiki hou! The new year is in full swing at the Maui County Council.

Actions are underway to continue tackling one of the most pressing issues facing our community — affordable housing.

Statistics from the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism’s 2015 housing demand report indicate Maui County will need to produce 13,949 affordable housing units by 2025 to keep up with demand.

According to the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns, seven projects are currently under construction, which could provide 1,046 units.

Fourteen additional projects are in the planning and entitlement phase. If these projects come to fruition, it could add 3,000 more homes to the county’s affordable housing inventory in the near future.

Forecasts, however, are usually overly optimistic. In 2017, only 60 affordable housing units were added, and just 400 are projected to be completed in 2018.

It has become apparent that this progress is too slow. As a result, on Friday the council adopted a resolution to create a council-initiated affordable housing policy and implementation plan.

The intent is to inventory both government and private land, assess infrastructure needs and identify any other cost hurdles, with an end goal to create a long-term affordable housing master plan. It will also identify areas of the Maui County Code that can be streamlined to allow for a less onerous permitting and subdivision process.

The study will commence within the next month, with a report to the council set for June.

On Wednesday, the Water Resources Committee met to discuss the status of the Upcountry water meter list maintained by the Department of Water Supply.

As of the end of June, 1,728 applicants remain on the list. A total of 45 meters were offered in 2016, with only six accepting. In 2017, 43 meters were offered with 21 accepting. The low acceptance rate is likely a result of the high cost of waterline improvements required to obtain a meter.

The slow issuance is due to engineer shortages in the water department. This has been a persistent problem and, as a result, in the fiscal year 2018 budget, the council appropriated $900,000 to allow the water department to hire private engineers to help speed up the meter issuance process.

Department representatives have reported, however, that private companies are unwilling to take on such a task due to logistical challenges and, therefore, the funds have been left unspent and the problem persists.

Instead, the department has focused on improving internal staffing, and the council will continue to oversee and help to identify ways to improve progress.

The Land Use Committee also took up a proposal this past week called the “film bill.” The bill is a result of a MTV commercial filming operation in 2016 that caused disturbance and nuisances in residential neighborhoods.

Film crews and equipment blocked roads, causing traffic jams and difficulties in accessing homes, and noise pollution disrupted the lives of families.

If the bill is enacted, commercial filming and photography crews of six or more people would need to obtain a permit to operate. This would also allow the Maui County Film Office to better monitor films being produced and the impact on the community.

Commercial video and photography operators also will have to provide notice to surrounding neighbors and conclude all film and photography activity by 9 p.m.

As was expressed by Department of Planning officials and the film commissioner, film and photography have a place in our economy. We want to make it attractive for commercial filming and photography to occur to showcase Maui County’s beauty, but we must do so with our community in mind.

Mahalo!

* Mike White is chairman 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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