February 2010


Based on Pamela Tumpup’s most recent (2/20/2010) The Chamber View column, I think we can sum up the Maui Chamber of Commerce’s view of the draft Maui County General Plan as relax, don’t do it. Let’s address her beefs and/or suggestions:

  • The draft plan is aspirational – Of course. This isn’t North Korea. The County hopes to achieve balanced economic growth, and encourage an improved quality of life. On the other hand, Ms. Tumpap complains that the document micromanages business interests. This is incorrect. In short, the plan hopes to prevent the County from turning into a grimy mess. But, there’s easy money en route, so she objects to any detour. In fact, Many of the proposed “implementing actions” explicitly support small business and the visitor industry. But, I’ll bet she blanched at the policy to put a time limit on development entitlements, currently valid indefinately.
  • Pamela suggests detailed plans for any new services, but it’s not clear if she wants them inserted into the general plan, or is just restating what the County government already does.
  • No population projection – This is incorrect.
  • There is a no-growth overtone to the plan – This is incorrect. It does seek to limit the addition of visitor rooms, but not overall growth.
  • Collaborate better with the visitor industry – Tourism accounts for 39% of Maui’s economic output, vs. 19 to 29% of the other counties, so there has obviously been plenty of collaboration already. The plan looks toward economic diversity. To allow room for diversification, it seeks to prevent unlimited proliferation of visitor rooms, while improving and broadening the experience for visitors filling the existing room count.
  • Build greater flexibility into boundaries – I’m sure the concept of urban growth boundaries is at the top of the Chamber’s shit list. It’s a key concept for smart growth, and maintaining the qualities that make Maui a desirable spot to vacation and live. If there’s anything in the plan the County needs to maintain a hard line on, it’s this. The County has a history of being free with zoning variances, and if it holds to that m.o., it might as well not set any limits to begin with.

This “Chamber View” isn’t evil, it just reflects the fact that just about any County planning policy will tend to conflict with the CoC memberships’ laissez-faire ideals. I’ll pray that the County council keeps this in mind as they review the draft General Plan.

Someone on Maui wants a water meter, and they want it now.

Maui DWS Residential Meter, Installed

The Maui Department of Water Supply has three major, separate systems: the west side, central and south, and upcountry. All of the systems rely on a combination of well and rain water, the upcountry system by far the most dependent on rain. Over the years, overall rainfall has trended downward, while the number of consumers has grown.

After years of struggling with droughts and tight supplies, in 1993 the Board of Water Supply set a long term policy limiting the addition of water meters to the upcountry system, until such time as added supplies became available. Landowners who were already approved for a meter were given six months to have it installed, while everyone else went onto a waiting list which has grown to over 1300 requests.

Now, a Mr. Davis has filed suit, claiming “uncompensated taking and violation of equal protection and due process” regarding his meter-less property in Haiku. His beef seems centered around lack of notice, and the cost of meeting the fire flow requirement. Several other correspondents have chimed in. I suspect there will be many more.

1) Lack of notice: the DWS met the letter of the law by putting an ad in the Maui News notifying customers of the new policy. The DWS could have posted notices in more newspapers, or mailed out notices. How many newspapers? What of the out-of-date addresses?

2) Fire flow requirement: Upcountry Maui is a rural area, and consequently its water system wasn’t built to provide residential levels of fire protection. Before someone can subdivide and develop their property, the pipes leading to it need to be brought up to code. The DWS’ capital improvement program has many competing priorities, among which rural upgrades are low on the list. Therefore, it becomes the landowner’s responsibility, often to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.

A workaround  is for the landowner to drill a well on property. Another option, only pursued by major developers, is to drill a well elsewhere, and deed it to the County in exchange for a percentage of the rated supply. This translates into a certain number of water meters for the development. This doesn’t happen very often, about once a decade, but it really irks the small landowners.

As for Mr. Davis, I suspect he’s out of luck. A judge will quickly recognize that a ruling which in any way favors the plaintiff will lead to chaos for Upcountry water pressure, and/or break the bank for the County.

Waikamoi Flume: If It Ain't Raining, It Ain't Flowing