Department seeking more input in community plan reviews

Open house set for West Maui to begin first of 6 Maui island regional updates

The Department of Planning is getting back on track to update Maui island’s six regional plans, but this time it’s coming with a dose of budgetary realism and more input from county departments, according to Deputy Director Michele Chouteau McLean.

The department announced Monday that it’s hosting an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for the West Maui Community Plan update at the West Maui Senior Center at 788 Pauoa St. in Lahaina.

“The public is invited to drop by anytime to learn about the community planning process, discuss issues affecting West Maui, review maps and information, and meet the project team,” the announcement says.

“I encourage the West Maui community to stop by,” Planning Director Will Spence said. “Community input is a critical part of creating a meaningful and effective plan.”

The West Maui plan is the first of Maui island’s six regional community plans to be updated since the Maui Island Plan was adopted in 2012. The plans guide future development.

An update of the Molokai Community Plan is pending before the Maui County Council.

On July 1, 2016, the council approved a revised Lanai Community Plan, but that came more than seven months beyond the one-year deadline set by ordinance for council members to consider community plan revisions. Then, in mid-October, Mayor Alan Arakawa effectively put the West Maui plan review on hold when he directed the Planning Department to suspend its work on Maui island community plans and focus instead on revamping the county’s long-range planning process.

On Monday, McLean said that was done.

“We focused on changes that could be made without amending the law,” she said.

Now, she said, community plans will be “implementable and achievable” because departments other than the Planning Department will be “much more involved” in the community plan update process, and plan reviews will “emphasize budget considerations.”

“Our communities, and we in the Planning Department, are frustrated that components of our long-range plans don’t seem to get implemented,” she said. “But one of the reasons that they do not get implemented is because some of the ‘action items’ are unrealistic or impractical.”

In the past, county departments had not been involved in formulating plans, and action items were not tied to the county budget, McLean said.

“There are more than 1,000 implementing actions in our long-range plans which together would cost billions of dollars to implement,” she said. “We simply do not have the resources to pursue so many initiatives in addition to the day-to-day operations of the county government.”

With more involvement of county departments, “each community will make well-informed choices on, for example, their priorities for parks facilities, infrastructure upgrades, or the management of shoreline resources,” she said. “Under the new process, the departments will be tasked with realistic and achievable actions, which can then be included in their future proposed budgets.”

Also, the department is launching a new, interactive website to allow residents to participate in the community plan update process, McLean said.

“Not everyone can or wants to attend meetings, workshops or charettes, and not everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions in those settings,” she said.

The website address will be www.wearemaui.org. It should be online as early as Friday.

On the website, people can take surveys, post comments, review documents, follow meetings and keep track of the plan drafting process, she said.

Because the Maui Island Plan has been completed, the Maui community plan reviews will be “simplified and streamlined,” McLean said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.

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