Chair’s 3 Minutes: Explaining what the Land Use Committee does

A recent case study illustrates what the County Council’s Land Use Committee does.

A homeowner in Waiehu wanted to convert part of his home into a real estate office. So, he worked with a planner from the Planning Department, who determined an application for a conditional permit was required to start the approval process.

The planner sought comment from other agencies on potential compliance issues. Once replies were obtained and questions resolved, a public hearing was scheduled with the Maui Planning Commission to further vet the application.

Doing business in a residential community brings with it concerns over traffic, security and safety of the neighborhood. There are also questions about preserving the residential character of the community.

The commissioners discussed these issues and recommended approval of the application, subject to enumerated conditions to provide protection for the neighborhood.

Next, the corporation counsel’s office prepared a bill for an ordinance approving the conditional permit, which was submitted to the County Council, with the commission’s recommendations. The council referred the bill to its Land Use Committee.

Evaluating land use applications requires review of historical data, community impacts, water supply, sewage and solid waste disposal, environmental and topographic issues and impacts on beach and mountain trails and access. Staff from both executive and legislative branches are involved in the review, along with volunteer planning commissioners and elected and appointed officials.

After consulting with the planner and applicant, and receiving input from the public, the committee recommended approval of the application, as referenced in Land Use Committee Report 13-9. The council passed the bill on two readings, the mayor signed Ordinance 4014 into law, and the applicant gained the ability to use part of his home as an office for a two-year trial period.

The process was a bit burdensome for everyone. But it was fair, respectful and based on the law – the standard the committee always strives to meet.

The Land Use Committee acts on project-specific applications for zoning changes, conditional permits, expedited affordable-housing initiatives and other approvals relating to use of real property.

As committee chairman, I value respect for our land and fairness for our people. Each square foot of our county’s greatest gift, our ‘aina, holds a story.

Overseeing land use debates gives me an opportunity to preserve the intrinsic value of our land – its archaeological, ecological and cultural richness – while allowing for well-planned and economically viable development. Chairing the Land Use Committee and voting my conscience are weighty responsibilities I gladly accept.

As author Wendell Berry once said, “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. . . . Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”

On another note, as council vice chairman, I’ll preside at Tuesday’s council meeting and public hearing, as Chairwoman Gladys Baisa attends to volunteer commitments. Please join us at 9 a.m. in the chambers, at the Hana, Lanai or Molokai district offices, or on Akaku Channel 53.

Mahalo nui loa.

* Robert Carroll holds the council seat for the East Maui residency area. He’s vice chairman of the council and chairman of the Land Use Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.