After many hours of public testimony, roundtable discussions and a split vote, the Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday came up with a highly controversial proposal to suspend new guest accommodation in a bid to tackle overtourism.
The panel in a 6-2 vote recommended rejection of the Maui County Council bill while recommending approval of the county planning department’s version, with revisions. Commissioners Christian Tackett and Jerry Edlao disagreed, and Mel Hipolito was absent and apologized.
The move followed a split vote on a motion by Edlao to categorically reject the council bill’s recommendation.
The measure will eventually be heard by the town planning and sustainable land use planning committee.
Nearly 20 public witnesses spoke at the committee meeting on Tuesday, with just over half in favor of a moratorium on new transitional accommodation. The comments echoed months of heated public debate over hotel moratoria that coincided with a strong rebound in visitor arrivals.
July’s domestic arrivals in Maui reached a record high of 286,851, breaking the previous record of 279,368 set in July 2019, according to the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Supporters of a ban on increasing transitional units on Tuesday highlighted the depletion of island resources, such as water and infrastructure, as well as unfettered visitors and construction industries that will not be limited.
Hotel and construction lobbyists, along with a handful of others, opposed the moratorium on Tuesday, saying it will not stop visitors – the measure will only hurt hard-hit industries and local jobs . Some have said it will have unintended consequences, such as supplying illegal housing for visitors that will further displace residents from their neighborhoods.
During the commission, which ran from about 9:30 a.m. to almost 4 p.m., members were divided on how to proceed.
Tackett has pushed hard against the moratorium, saying it will hurt local jobs and take power away from the Planning Commission, which scrutinizes every project proposal. The panel manages projects ranging from new hotels to small guesthouses and commercial expansions.
“You’re going to be able to decide whether or not – once you put the moratorium on, it’s just done – you’re just out of the loop. “ he said. “It doesn’t look like you’re going to get those rights back, you’re going to give up your rights today, and then the legislation is going to come in and you’re going to get back all the rights that they give you. I’ll be careful before handing over your stuff.
However, Commissioner Kimberly Thayer said the tourism industry has shown it has enough units to accommodate large numbers of people, so putting a two-year hiatus on new apps doesn’t appear to be. “Would have killed so many industries. “
“Why do we have to accelerate investments in an industry that we know to be unstable? “ she asked. Yes “75% of jobs in the private sector depend indirectly or directly on the tourism industry, is the goal to be 100%? “
Introduced by Vice President Keani Rawlins Fernandez in June, the council’s proposal would impose a moratorium on new temporary housing – including hotels, timeshares, short-term rental homes and temporary vacation rental units – to across the island of Maui.
The proposal follows Bill 60, another moratorium on visitor accommodation that garnered strong public support, but was ultimately opposed by Mayor Michael Victorino, a move the council authorized in part because possible legal loopholes.
This moratorium, however, would maintain the current number of tourist accommodation units until the council passes legislation implementing the recommendations of a temporary tourism management inquiry group established by the council, or in two years with the possibility of extending for six months, whichever comes first.
There are currently 24,425 visitor accommodation units in total, according to the county’s Property Valuation Division, which was cited at Tuesday’s meeting.
County Administrative Planning Officer Jacky Takakura presented five departmental reviews, which strengthened the way to verify the use of temporary housing, made exceptions for existing and non-compliant uses, gave exceptions for projects providing affordable housing, detailed mitigation measures for areas of sea level rise and called for the building code to be revised to align with the ban on building permits.
She also discussed applicable parts of the county’s long-range plans, including the Countywide Policy Plan and the Maui Island Plan.
“It’s hard to say the moratorium is inconsistent with the county’s long-term plans,” Takakura said.
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.