Saturday, September 8, 2007

Maui Decides to Violate Its Own Zoning Laws

The Boys and Girls Club on Maui needed a recreation center in Lahaina Maui. A worthy request for sure, but the land on which the building is proposed is in the state agricultural district. The state agricultural district does not allow the proposed uses or structures on the 20-acre parcel which presently includes an aquatic and recreational center.

Articles in the Maui News and Honolulu Advertiser have the story wrong a bit. The papers say that the county is violating its own zoning laws; however, the county may also be violating state land use laws. The counties have limited authority over zoning in the state agricultural district. Any zoning must be consistent with the uses permitted under state statute.

The proper procedure for the 20 acre parcel is for the landowner to petition the state land use commission for a district boundary amendment. Alternatively, the landowner may petition the county for a state special permit, subject to the approval of the state land use commission. However, it is questionable that a special permit could be granted since such permits must "promote the effectiveness and objectives of [HRS chapter 205]." Under that chapter, uses and structures allowed on state agricultural land is limited to farming and farming related activities. The counties are allowed to adopt zoning laws that define uses accessory to farming activities; but a recreation center that apparently has nothing to do with farming does not appear to meet the statutory objectives

Notwithstanding state law, the Maui County Council granted a county conditional use permit to allow the above uses. The conditional use permit is a local land use mechanism which allows uses that are permitted by ordinance if certain conditions are imposed to mitigate the potential negative effects of that use; e.g., a mortuary. The county has no authority to grant such a permit for avoiding state mandated uses in the agricultural district.

The Council ultimately approved the conditional use permit in a 7-0 vote, which will allow for the $2.2 million replacement for the Boys & Girls Club of Maui's building at the Lahaina Recreation Center. According to the Maui News, Condition 10 of the permit requires the Parks Department to "get the zoning straight in five years." Another questionable maneuver by the Council since Maui's Charter does not allow councilmembers to "give orders to any county employees or county officers . . . either publicly or privately," violation of that mandate is "sufficient grounds for the councilmember's removal from office by impeachment."

This conditional use permit will be an a fascinating read once posted at the County's website.

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