Published in The Maui News, June 5, 2016
By DON COUCH, for The Maui News
On May 24, the County Council’s Planning Committee received a presentation from the county Planning Department on the process involved in updating the county’s community plans.
The community plan update process is directed by Chapter 2.80B of the Maui County Code, the County Charter and state law. The code, for example, states that “each of the County’s nine community plans shall, to the extent practicable, be updated within ten years.”
Each of the community plans is adopted by ordinance as part of the Maui County General Plan and is intended to guide policymakers on land use and other decisions in the area. Each proposed community plan update is reviewed by a community plan advisory committee, or CPAC, and the relevant island planning commission before being submitted to the council.
Before a proposed community plan update is submitted to a CPAC to start the process, Planning Department staff and consultants typically spend 18 months compiling relevant data and drafting the document. The CPAC and planning commission then successively review and provide recommendations on revising the draft plan. Each body gets six months to do the work, unless the council grants more time.
Experience has shown it may not be realistic to update community plans within 10 years. The Lanai Community Plan is now on the verge of a comprehensive update for the first time since 1998.
Indeed, according to Planning Director Will Spence, it would take 16-20 years to update all of the county community plans under existing procedures. The Lanai Community Plan is the first to be approved in the current update process, to be followed by Molokai and West Maui.
The department engaged the committee in discussion on how to streamline the update process, without compromising on community involvement.
Is it more reasonable to plan for updates every 20 years? Considering that each community plan has a CPAC, is planning commission review necessary?
Community input is the most crucial part of the process. Expert analysis from staff and consultants is also important.
Each community plan must be consistent with the Countywide Policy Plan and other county and state laws. Council members must be cognizant to protect property rights while advocating for community needs and goals.
To view a video of the committee meeting, which started on May 20 before being recessed to May 24, please go to mauicounty.us. The department’s presentation, written testimony and other committee materials are also available at the site.
If you have suggestions on improving the community plan update process, please email them to the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org, referencing PC-40.
My committee has received the proposed Molokai Community Plan, along with recommendations from the Molokai CPAC and Molokai Planning Commission. I look forward to going into deliberations soon and hearing from Molokai community members on their vision for the island’s future, while we continue to consider changes to the process for West Maui and the other upcoming community plans.
* Don Couch is chairman of the council’s Planning Committee. He holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.