The Maui Chamber of Commerce long has advocated for appropriate home-based businesses in residential areas, where such businesses did not have a serious negative impact on the neighborhood.
We have worked to help find solutions and address neighborhood concerns so that suitable home-based businesses can operate legitimately. Given this, we have been frustrated by legislation stalled in the Maui County Council's Planning Committee for roughly a year now, and have asked publicly for the matter to be put on the committee's agenda and moved forward.
The good news is the matter will be heard Monday. We appreciate this because such legislation is essential to small and struggling businesses. The bad news is: The bill being addressed includes language of great concern.
The first bill that Jeff Hunt, former planning director, introduced sought to get government out of the way and allow home occupations to exist without a permit as long as they do not affect the neighborhood negatively. The planning commission reviewed and approved this bill.
However, we understand that after the planning commission's review, some county departments had concerns and the Planning Department redrafted the ordinance, changing its basic premise. The definition Hunt used for "home occupations" has been renamed "home-based businesses" and, as such, would require sponsors of the bill to go before the planning commission to seek a special use permit. Instead of getting government out of the way, this situation puts government smack in the middle of businesses considered to be amenable. We cannot support this provision and far prefer the former bill.
Other stipulations that require attention include:
* Bill language: Only one person other than a family member residing on the premises of the dwelling unit shall be employed by the home-based business.
Chamber position: Two or three people would be appropriate, with parking concerns being addressed with an off-street parking provision for employees beyond the one noted.
* Bill language: No more than 25 percent of the floor area of the dwelling unit shall be used by the home-based business.
Chamber position: This requirement would not better safeguard the neighborhood. With other protections in place, this condition should be eliminated.
* Bill language: No group-instruction classes or group-sales meetings shall be permitted on the premises of the dwelling unit.
Chamber position: Many are involved in home-based selling, multilevel marketing activities and small-group classes. We understand the need to shelter neighborhoods from large groups frequently coming into the neighborhood, but feel some allowance is reasonable as long as participants address any concerns that might surface.
* Bill language: Retail sales shall be limited to products produced by the home-based business.
Chamber position: Why? This constraint that could keep many from earning a living does not better defend the neighborhood.
* Bill language: Harboring, caring, training or raising dogs, cats, birds, horses or other animals is prohibited.
Chamber position: We understand the need to address noise and smell issues, but feel the participants could do so with appropriate actions. This requirement focuses only on those who generate income, not those who simply have a lot of animals.
We are pleased to see other protective measures included, such as prohibiting signage or display advertising; screening from public view any items stored in the home for business use; maintaining the residential character of the property or neighborhood, etc.
Our goal is to work toward allowing appropriate home-based businesses to operate without a permit.
We do not believe all businesses fit in a residential setting; however, many small businesses do, and we want to help these businesses survive and grow.
If you are operating or are interested in operating a home-based business, 1:30 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers is the time to address this draft bill. We hope to see you there.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.