Looks like Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa has decided to “suspend” all of the county Planning Department’s work on community plans, The Maui News reported on Oct. 16. According to the paper, “long-range planners have temporarily stopped doing preliminary work on the West Maui Community Plan update.” The reason? Both Arakawa and Maui County Council Planning Committee chairperson Don Couch hate “the planning process.”
“[T]he process has too many statutory requirements, including extensive content of the plans, details on how the plans are drafted and specific amounts of time each reviewing body is allocated,” Arakawa said in an Aug. 12 letter to Couch, according to The Maui News. As for Couch, he told the paper that Arakawa’s statements “parallel what I was saying.”
While The Maui News’ Oct. 16 article does a fine job of explaining Arakawa’s and Couch’s reasoning, it offers zero voices in defense of the county’s community plans. Sure, it’s taking decades to complete the community plans, and the recent Lanai Community Plan update was, as the paper put it, “difficult,” but is it really necessary to stop the whole thing in its tracks?
“Somehow other counties manage to do this,” former Maui General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) member Lucienne de Naie told me. “And a great deal of what’s in community plans is regulated by state statute. [Arakawa and Couch] are pointing their fingers in the wrong direction: the administration doesn’t like the results so they say the process is broken.”
Here’s an example of what de Naie’s talking about: the Lanai Community Plan update. It was long and difficult, but none of that had anything to do with the “process.” There was a bad plane crash on the island in 2014 that killed and injured members of the county’s Planning Department. The island itself is also largely owned by a single individual (Larry Ellison), and the island went through a recent sale. De Naie also mentioned that when the Lanai Community Plan went in for final approval, officials altered a key phrase in the plan’s language to indicate that land use maps would only be suggestive of future development, and that the whole plan would be subordinate to zoning.
“Community plan land use designation are not regulatory,” the Lanai plan suddenly and inexplicably asserted. “The following list of designations provides general descriptions on the different types of uses.”
This was, of course, complete nonsense. “The Land use designations in community plans have the force of law based on several court decisions,” de Naie said. “This is why people are wanting a county manager. If the process is broken, it’s because of cronyism–because politicians don’t want to offend their financial base by taking controversial stands on controversial projects.”
Photo of Mayor Alan Arakawa courtesy County of Maui