In a sparsely attended session, the Planning Committee of the Maui County Council began its review of the implementation section of Maui Island Plan. This is the last piece of the giant planning scenario that has absorbed so much time and effort for almost a decade. The document is designated to set the county's priorities, capital improvement and financial plans for the island of Maui through the year 2030.
All members of the committee were present for most of the morning session held in council chambers on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 23.
All previous sections of the island plan were adopted last year. The council has set a target date of the end of March for putting this piece of the puzzle in place. Though it's the final segment, it may be the hardest to accomplish. Though the philosophical and conceptual elements have already been established, the numbers and just what those numbers mean may prove elusive, especially since the target date to complete the review is the end of March, and the Jan. 23 meeting was the first time the subject has reached the Planning Committee.
Don Couch (above), chairman of the County Council Planning Committee; (below) Michelle McLean, deputy planning director; Will Spence, planning director, and Attorney Michael Hopper, representing the Office of Corporation Counsel, testified on the implementation phase of the Maui Island Plan.
As called for in the Maui County Code (2.80B.030.G4), the implementation program will include a capital improvement plan (CIP), a financial element and an implementation schedule.
The CIP element will describe regional infrastructure systems and regional public facilities and services that will be needed over the 20-year planning period.
The financial element will describe a fiscally sound financial program for identified actions and capital improvements.
The implementation schedule will identify and numerically prioritize specific actions, start and completion dates, the lead implementation agency or person, the estimated implementation cost and the anticipated funding source or sources.
Asked if there was a potential conflict between the implementation plan, which runs for 20 years, and other financial planning, which is on much shorter cycle, attorney Michael Hopper of the Corporation Counsel's office was of the opinion that both were compatible.
County Planning Director Will Spence defended the one-year plan that had been in his department, saying that when the document came to him, he found that many of the departments had not been updated and were unaware of the current content.
Indeed, the topic of whether the departments really knew what the implementation phase contained led the chair to rule that the affected departments and their heads would come before the committee one by one to give their views on priority, financial planning and CIP.
Planning Committee Chair Don Couch later said Mauians who are concerned about the status of various programs included in the implementation phase and their ranking would do well to keep an eye on this measure as it progresses through committee.
It was not clear from the testimony if the "prioritization" of the project would be advisory or mandatory, or how long such priorities would remain in effect.
Couch said interested persons could sign up for notification by contacting his office at 270-7108, or could also do it by visiting the Planning Department page on the county's Website (www.co.maui.hi.us). He said there would be opportunity for public testimony at each of the committee meetings, and public testimony would also be heard at first and second readings once the measure had passed out of committee to the full council.
Contacted the date after the meeting, Councilmember Mike White was optimistic that the process would be positive and yield a "good outcome." He said he would be "keeping an eye on impact fees" and funding sources. White cautioned against setting fees so high that prospective investors were driven to other locations.
At least half the morning was taken up discussing a reorganization of the long-range planning staff of the Planning Department and the creation of a new, three-person implementation division.
Spence testified that one of the reasons not as much had been accomplished as was sometimes desired is because no one was specifically accountable for leading the effort.
While this portion of the meeting was advisory in nature, Council members Riki Hokama and Elle Cochran were skeptical of the need for a departmental reorganization or a new, three-person "implementation" division.
Dick Mayer, former General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) vice chair, also testified against it, and Jim Smith, a local resident who frequently shares his views on public policy with the council, passionately predicted that the new plan would create an elitist trio who would be the only ones to actually understand the plan, and would soon leave the county, take their knowledge with them and sell their services to private developers.
Heads around the room nodded in agreement as Smith made his forecast.
Couch said in later phone comments that he believes the Planning Department has already made the change.
Spence said that even though a new division would be created, there would be no new costs associated with the change, and that all staffers would occupy offices in One Main Plaza, albeit on different floors.
Other members of the public who testified included Lucienne de Naie, a former GPAC member speaking as a private citizen, and Ray Okazaki, distribution engineering supervisor for Maui Electric Company, who had concerns about underground utilities, their costs and who would pay.