Earlier this month, Maui County Planning Department Director Will Spence and Deputy Director Michele McLean signed an op-ed in The Maui News saying the county would soon seek changes to the law governing community plans. This came a few weeks after The Maui News reported on a memo it had obtained from Mayor Alan Arakawa saying that the whole planning process was “broken.”
On Nov. 12,
former county planner Connie Tucker, who worked in the county Planning Department’s Long Range Division, sent a letter to The Maui News disputing the Arakawa-Spence-McLean line. Since the paper has not published her letter, Tucker gave us permission to do so. Here it is, as she sent it:
In their Nov 6th editorial letter Will Spence and Michele McLean offered their reasons for changing the Community Plan process. They cited the extended time frame for producing the Lanai Community Plan and suggested that planning staff is inadequate to meeting the requirements of the Charter, section 2.80B.
I am retired from the Long Range Division, was employed under this and the previous administration, and I worked on both the Maui Island Plan and the Lanai Community Plan.
What Will and Michele failed to include in their opinion piece is that in 2013, while the Lanai Plan was underway, the Long Range Division had vacant, budgeted Planner and GIS positions that the administration opted not to fill. Instead it was decided to implement Division relocations and a complete Department reorganization. Over the objections of planning staff, they moved the Zoning and Enforcement Division and the Planning Administration’s own offices from County owned property to rental offices at One Main Plaza. Long Range was moved to a space about 1/3rd smaller. Since offices had to be built out there were months of work interruptions and hardships for staff. Then, in the reorganization of the Planning Department, the vacant Long Range positions were shifted to other divisions, again over the vehement objections of staff.
The work force of Long Range, the division tasked with meeting the Charter requirements, was severely diminished. By these and other actions the process was disrupted. It took a toll on both the work to be done and on the workers themselves. The plane crash on Lanai was a tragic finale for staff already struggling to meet their obligations to the public. But the crash was not the singular event that disrupted the Lanai Plan. And the Lanai Plan should not be used as a pawn to manipulate the public’s perception.
It is not the process that is broken. There is a problem with lack of administration willingness to appropriately administer the process.
The guarantees and protections that inhibit unencumbered growth on Maui continue to be under threat. Changes to the process could seriously weaken the protections we have managed, despite the odds, to have in place.
Because changes require Council approval and because we have a different Council next year, watch for a rapid attempt to alter or amend 2.80B in the coming weeks.
Photo of Lanai: Forest & Kim Starr