Bills to satisfy sand moratorium pending before council committee

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

In an effort to mitigate the destruction and displacement of ancestral remains and Hawaiian cultural artifacts, the County Council passed a moratorium halting the drilling, extracting, tunneling, dredging, grading and stockpiling of inland sand in Central Maui on Jan. 5. On June 6, the moratorium expired. However, two weeks ago, the council adopted an amendment to the sand moratorium ordinance extending the term of the moratorium to Dec. 31.

The moratorium effectively halts all development of lots in the moratorium area, which spans from Kapuna in Waihee to Maalaea. Several parcels, including Maui Lani Phase 9 and the proposed area of the Wailuku Apartments Affordable Rental Project, are exempt from the provisions of the moratorium. 

The moratorium will be lifted only if the Maui Inland Sand Quantification Study is updated or the council adopts an ordinance or ordinances regulating the extraction or removing of inland sand. Currently, the study’s update is underway by contractor SSFM International Inc.

The council’s Land Use Committee, which I chair, has two proposed bills relating to the sand moratorium: a bill aimed at making the grading and grubbing permit process more efficient and effective, and a bill clarifying the definition of resource extraction. Both bills serve the purpose of regulating the extraction of inland sand.

Grading and grubbing permits are essential for the preparation of any site for development. However the processes in place for approval of these permits are convoluted and ineffective. Currently, the Department of Public Works and the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources both play a role in the grading and grubbing permit approval process. According to the Maui County Code, when the Department of Public Works receives a grading and grubbing permit application, it sends the application to SHPD, which has 10 days to review the application and provide comments. Upon receipt of SHPD’s comments, the director of public works makes his or her determination.

Earlier this year, I met with representatives from SHPD and volunteers from the soil and water conservation district (SWCD). According to SHPD’s representative, the agency is severely understaffed and is rarely able to conduct an adequate review in the timeframe required by the Maui County Code. That said, grading and grubbing permit review often lacks a cultural and historic perspective that could lend itself to the preservation of iwi kupuna, or ancestral remains.

Though the meeting exposed issues in the process, I am optimistic that the council and involved county and state agencies will be able to identify solutions from both policy and public administration fronts.

The first bill, LU-47, addresses this oversight, ensuring SHPD’s and SWCD’s review of the grading and grubbing permit application and giving SHPD more control over the grading and grubbing process.

The second bill, LU-48, improves upon the vague definition of resource extraction by including a definition of resource “processing” in the code. The bill is also integral for the preservation of inland sand.

Prior to the moratorium, operators of sand mining and processing activities were able to extract and export massive volumes of sand for profit, leading to the disturbance and destruction of iwi kupuna. Additionally, the act of processing does not require a special use permit, as is currently the case of resource extraction. The enactment of LU-48 would require that the activities of resource extraction and processing both undergo stringent planning commission approval as part of getting a special use permit.

Both LU-47 and LU-48 are required for passage if the sand moratorium is to be lifted. The bills are critical for the preservation of culture, history and natural resources, so I hope to schedule these items for public hearings in the Land Use Committee in the near future. To view the Land Use Committee’s schedule, visit https://mauicounty.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

Mahalo.

 

* Bob Carroll is chairman of the Maui County Council’s Land Use Committee. He holds the council seat for the East Maui 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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