Maui County is a step closer to implementing a new industrial zoning class that would allow for more than 50 uses, including chemical manufacturing, petroleum refining, quarries and landfills.
The County Council's Planning Committee on Monday unanimously advanced legislation that would create the M-3 Restricted Industrial District. It still needs approval from the full council.
The zoning would cover industrial uses that are generally considered "obnoxious or offensive by reason of emission of odor, dust, smoke, gas, noise, vibration and the like, and not allowed in any other district," according to the bill.
Some of the other uses would include automobile wrecking, biofuel product manufacturing, concrete manufacturing, crematories, explosive manufacturing or storage, recycling processing facilities, slaughterhouses, sugar mills, telecommunication towers and utility facilities.
The Planning Department said the new zoning is intended to prevent the existing practice of true manufacturing and industrial businesses being pushed out of light and heavy industrial areas to make room for higher-value retail use, which is permitted.
General retail and office uses in M-3 zoned areas would be limited to so-called accessory uses, meaning they would have to be second to the main permitted manufacturing use. Retail and indoor product display areas would be capped at 20 percent of gross floor area.
Currently, the 53 uses proposed for M-3 districts are considered special uses that require a special use permit under the existing agricultural, M-1 Light Industrial or M-2 Heavy Industrial zoning rules.
That permit requirement triggers public notification and opportunity for the public to weigh in on proposed uses.
Committee Chairman Don Couch expressed concerned that the dozens of proposed industrial uses run the gamut from seemingly harmless uses like a machine shop or soap maker, to more hazardous uses like acid and chlorine manufacturing.
He said he was concerned about the possibility of a company receiving the zoning for one use, and later selling the land to another company that changes the use without the need to seek public input.
Couch cited the example of the two controversial shopping malls planned in Kihei on light industrial land that was initially zoned for a proposed light industrial park.
"All of a sudden it goes from something that is not as noxious or obnoxious to something that's very noxious, and they wouldn't have to go back to the public," Couch said of the new zoning class. "And this is kind of the same thing that's happened with the M-1 area in Kihei, where something was approved, and then it gets changed to something completely different because it's allowed."
The Planning Department and a county attorney advised the committee against triggering further review if a land-owner changes from one permitted use to another permitted use.
They instead suggested the council could eliminate any of the 53 proposed uses, or, at the time of granting the M-3 zoning to an applicant, restrict the permitted uses at a particular site.
"You want to keep all the uses in there," Administrative Planning Officer Joe Alueta of the Planning Department told the council committee.
"The whole purpose of us moving it out of the M-2 and making it an allowed use in the M-3 is to streamline the process," he said, "but also, the fact is that when we do a zoning change to an M-3, all of those types of concerns will be take into account when you do your site specifics."
Planning Director Will Spence added that allowing all the uses would give the marketplace needed flexibility.
"To have to revisit every business, there wouldn't be much purpose for the zoning," he said.
Without having to seek additional approvals, other council members cited concerns about businesses being able to engage in potentially hazardous activities without oversight.
Spence stressed that most of the permitted uses fall under industries that are heavily regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Division, the Department of Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"Those industries, just by their nature, are going to be regulated," Spence said.
All seven committee members voted to advance the proposed bill with all 53 of the permitted uses.
If the new zoning class is created, Spence said the department is looking at potential areas in Pulehunui, the land under Maui Electric Co. power plant in Maalaea and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.'s sugar mill to be rezoned.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.