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County proposes changes to zoning district

Short-term rentals would be removed but B&Bs allowed

Members of the Maui Planning Commission vote to recommend a bill for approval during a virtual meeting on Tuesday. The commission threw its support behind a number of bills, including changes to permitted uses in the urban reserve district and requirements for commission attendance. 

The Maui Planning Commission recommended a bill Tuesday that would allow more than one accessory dwelling and remove short-term rentals in a rarely used zoning district.

The proposed changes, which are circulating among the three planning commissions before heading to the Maui County Council for final review, would update permitted uses in the urban reserve district.

“Urban reserve is purposely restrictive, and it’s used when land is not ready to be developed in a manner consistent with its community plan designation,” administrative planning officer Jacky Takakura explained during a virtual meeting over BlueJeans. “We have found, however, that it is a little overly restrictive, so we would like to make some amendments.”

Maui island has about 40,000 parcels, and 84 of those are zoned as urban reserve districts, which are for lands that are in the state urban district and set aside for future development, Takakura said. Of those 84 parcels, 61 have fewer than 1 acre of urban reserve, and the remaining 23 range in size from one to 36 acres. They’re mostly located in Hana, Upcountry and the north shore, with none on Molokai and Lanai.

The proposed bill would simplify the existing rules on accessory uses in the urban reserve district, eliminate short-term rentals while permitting bed and breakfasts, allow for government buildings and reserve structures on open space and park designations for public purposes only.

Accessories to single-family homes would still be allowed, such as garages, carports and storage sheds. The changes would also bring the urban reserve district up to speed with the rest of the Maui County Code, which now allows up to two ohanas on larger lots; current rules for urban reserve districts only allow for one.

Planning Director Michele McLean said that issues with the current rules came to light because of a piece of land near the Morihara Store and Joe’s Kula Auto at Historic Calasa Garage. It’s a large parcel with split designations of business and single-family.

“There’s one dwelling on the parcel right now on like 8 acres, and the current urban zoning allows them to do nothing else,” McLean said. “So we wanted to at least allow them to be able to have the two accessory dwellings that County Code now allows.”

McLean said the department reviewed the whole chapter and suggested the changes, as “we want to allow housing opportunities wherever we can.”

The bill also clarifies that within these districts, “no subdivision may create additional lots other than restricted use lots or lots for park purposes.” McLean explained that restricted use lots can be used for roadways and utilities but can’t be developed with a house.

Planning commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the bill for approval.

They also unanimously recommended a separate bill that would update rules on street requirements for emergency access. Maui County Code currently requires a minimum street width of 20 feet in order to approve a building permit for an accessory dwelling, but it doesn’t recognize the exceptions allowed in the Maui County Fire Code. That’s forced the Department of Fire and Public Safety to deny permits “when there may be other options available,” according to the Planning Department.

The proposed bill would take out the 20-foot requirement and instead simply call for lots to have direct access to a street that meets “fire code requirements for fire apparatus access roads.”

Both bills will go to the Molokai and Lanai planning commissions before moving on to the council.

The commission also unanimously approved changes to its attendance rules, requiring the chairperson to request that the mayor recommend to the council “the removal of any member who misses 50 percent or more of the commission’s regular meetings over any 120-day period.” The changes don’t require approval from council — which recently passed a similar measure — but must be signed by the mayor.

In other commission business on Tuesday:

• Tentative meetings dates were scheduled for the planning commission’s review of the West Maui Community Plan. Meetings are set to take place following regular commission meetings on June 23, July 14, July 28, Aug. 11, Aug. 25 and Sept. 8, with half taking place in Wailuku and half in Lahaina. The commission has six months to make recommendations on the plan before sending it to the council.

• Members voted to waive review of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ request for a one-year time extension to start construction on the Lahaina Small Boat Harbor ferry pier improvements. DLNR officials said construction was set to start June 30 but may need to be pushed to July. The project calls for seawall repairs, demolition and reconstruction of the administration building and improvements along Wharf Street, as part of a larger project to eventually build an interisland ferry pier north of the existing one. McLean has final say on the time extension and said she planned to approve it.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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