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Administration to file bill to legalize MRA

Lawsuit challenges agency’s authority

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino’s administration will be submitting to the County Council a measure legalizing the Maui Redevelopment Agency, though its authority may not be status quo, the Maui County Planning Director said Friday.

A moratorium on decisions by the agency on zoning and variance applications is in place until the council decides on the legality of the agency, per an agreement between Maui County and plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the powers of the agency.

The moratorium agreement between the county and the two groups, Wailuku Good Government Coalition and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, was announced May 29. The two groups filed a lawsuit earlier this year, challenging the legal authority of the Maui Redevelopment Agency to zone land in Wailuku and to issue variances.

There have been two meetings this week on a draft environmental assessment on the proposed six-story, 156-room Hotel Wailuku, near the corner of Market and Main streets. One of the meetings was in the MRA, which ran Thursday and Friday, but was only for comment on the draft environmental assessment and not decision-making on the hotel’s request for variances from the four-story height limit and number of rooms.

“Once the environmental review process is complete, then the project would normally go back to the MRA to take action on the needed MRA permit and variance,” said county Planning Director Michele McLean on Friday. “However, we have put the processing of MRA variances on hold until the Wailuku Redevelopment Area Zoning and Development Code (WRAZDC) can be adopted by the County Council.”

Until the code is adopted by the council, McLean said “we will hold this and other projects that need MRA variances.” Once the code has been adopted, the hotel and other pending applications will be scheduled.

“I don’t know at this point if the codified WRAZDC will give the MRA the same authority that it has now, e.g., final authority to approve permits and variances,” McLean added. “If, for example, that authority is given to the council, Maui Planning Commission and/or Board of Variances and Appeals, we will schedule the project before the appropriate body(ies).”

This is the argument of the two groups, that planning and land use issues generally go before the planning commissions, the Board of Variances and Appeals and the County Council, which is not the case with MRA applications.

Lance Collins, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that his side will be proposing a measure that abolishes the MRA. The groups are working with several council members. Council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez has come out publicly in favor of looking at dissolving the MRA.

The council has a deadline for action with a hearing on the lawsuit before 2nd Circuit Judge Kelsey Kawano delayed from June 17 to Oct. 14. The county has moved to dismiss the complaint and the two groups are seeking a summary judgment.

“They can’t have forever to decide what to do,” Collins said last week.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com. Lee Imada can be reached and leeimada@mauinews.com.

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