Concerns about island plan addressed

I feel a duty to clear up a misconception about the Maui Island Plan, especially in light of a May 19 Viewpoint. The Viewpoint claims that the General Plan Advisory Committee made recommendations to a certain chapter of the plan and, therefore, I should not have proposed to have changed it and should instead have the County Council restore those “recommendations.”

Readers may be interested to learn that the GPAC never made any recommendations in regards to this particular chapter (Implementation) of the Maui Island Plan and, in fact, chose not to review it. But don’t take my word for it. Read the minutes of the panel’s last meeting on Feb. 28, 2009, at One member states (starting on Page 374): “We didn’t get to the CIP, we didn’t get to the Implementation thing, either. I’m not going to support a blanket approval for those things. They weren’t for discussion, then they should go on the list of we just didn’t get to it.” The same member later comments (on Page 379): “This is exactly why I can’t support . . . motion, because he is talking about Implementation, CIP. We never had the opportunity to look at that.”

If the 25-member GPAC never approved this document, where do the proposals come from? This chapter was looked at and recommendations made by an Investigative Review Committee, or IRC, comprising eight GPAC members. IRC members met and made recommendations among themselves. While the public was allowed to watch, there was no public testimony taken. It should be noted that this group did not always find consensus on these proposals.

The bigger question is: Why edit the recommendations of the eight? Some of the ideas never made it through the planning commission, long before I became director. Items I recommended to be removed may be fine as planning concepts but the general plan is not the place for them.

The proposals are written are as single, stand-alone sentences and set in the context of a 20-year policy document. This kind of document is supposed to guide us in the right direction in decision-making, to call for issues to be brought to the table.

The proper place for such concepts would be within the Maui County Code. Planning concepts such as these are consequential enough that, if brought forward, they should be discussed through the full legislative process to make laws and where all aspects of the proposals can be examined with public input.

For instance, the idea that documents and studies become outdated after a number of years is, at times, a perfectly legitimate concern. The public might not be aware that the Planning Department and its various commissions, as well as the Maui County Council, already require updated information when needed. But if the county really needs such a law, going through the legislative process would bring out many questions. Why five years? Are all documents outdated or only certain ones? How do we treat our community plans that are more than a decade old, but among the most essential documents that are used in all applications? Would such a law change the length and costs of processing? People complain that it takes too long to get even affordable projects off the ground; I tend to agree.

I invite anyone to take a look at Maui County Code ( A brief look would show that even simple planning concepts often require complex answers. Certainly no topic can or should be covered by a single sentence.

Residents who have concerns about something I recommend to the Maui County Council or a commission are welcome to call my office. My recommendations always have a planning-based rationale behind them, and I am happy to explain my reasons to anyone who is interested. I can be reached at 270-7735 or

* William Spence in the director of the Maui County Department of Planning.