Community advisory committees are a proposal worth considering
COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES
Hana has an advisory committee to the Maui Planning Commission, while Molokai and Lanai have their own planning commissions.
The logic is sound. The remoteness of Hana, Lanai and Molokai requires special attention and additional review of planning matters.
The isolation of these communities, their small-town atmospheres and the inability of residents in those areas to easily attend meetings at the seat of Maui County government in Wailuku made it necessary to establish the advisory committee and planning commissions.
My question is this: Why shouldn’t all community plan areas on Maui have advisory committees?
I believe the time has come for each community plan area on the island to have its own advisory committee to achieve clarity on issues, increase knowledge of development and provide residents a greater say in shaping the future of their communities.
On July 30, I transmitted a proposed resolution and bill to the County Council that would create the Paia-Haiku Advisory Committee. This new advisory committee would be modeled after the Hana Advisory Committee, which provides recommendations to the Maui Planning Commission on projects and applications within the community plan area.
Council Member Kelly King transmitted a similar proposed bill to the council on Sept. 27 to create an advisory committee for South Maui, covering the Kihei-Makena Community Plan area.
Some may say creating advisory committees for each community plan area will increase staff demand, raise costs and create another layer of review. I understand the likelihood of these outcomes, but I also believe these changes are necessary to improve transparency, enhance community participation and increase public awareness.
The Maui Island Plan acknowledges establishing advisory committees can help to prioritize and improve community participation. Elsewhere in the state, similar actions are already underway.
The City and County of Honolulu, for example, established neighborhood boards many years ago to increase and assure effective citizen participation in the decisions of government.î They review planning matters, efficiency of government and community-based issues, such as capital-improvement projects.
Neighborhood boards throughout Oahu also provide public information and effectuate recommendations on a variety of substantive issues, beyond the land-use context.
My bill focuses on establishing the Paia-Haiku Advisory Committee for the specific purpose of providing recommendations to the Maui Planning Commission. In the future, however, I believe the council may wish to expand the responsibilities of advisory committees to include many of the duties outlined for neighborhood boards in Honolulu.
Planning Director Michele McLean has reviewed my bill and noted logistical concerns and the needs for additional funding and resource personnel to staff advisory committee meetings. She’s also suggested, based on the historical review of applications heard in the Paia-Haiku Community Plan area by the Maui Planning Commission, the volume would not appear to justify a new advisory committee.
I appreciate this viewpoint, but my concern is that it may be shortsighted.
We know Paia-Haiku is experiencing one of the highest annual growth rates in the state. Additionally, I believe that, whether the advisory committee reviews one or 100 applications, local residents should have the ability to review, comment or make recommendations on the future of their community.
Though the creation of an advisory committee would likely increase costs and add another layer of review for some projects, the expenditure and additional review are warranted. The Paia-Haiku Advisory Committee will increase government transparency, build a healthier community understanding of the entitlement process, heighten public awareness and help residents manage growth within our neighborhoods.
* Mike Molina is chair of the County Council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee. He holds the council seat for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia residency area. Council’s 3 Minutes is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.