Officials from visitor and labor industry as well as labor unions showed up at a rally and meeting of the Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday to oppose a bill that would cap the number of visitors. accommodation units, including hotel units, at current levels in apartment and hotel districts.
The bill is the result of actions related to the current temporary moratorium on new transient accommodations on Maui, one of the Maui County Council’s attempts to better manage tourism on the Valley Island. The temporary moratorium will be in place for two years from its effective date, January 7, 2024, or until council passes tourism management orders, such as the one proposed, whichever comes first. .
Along with the cap, the bill would also remove transient accommodations as permitted uses in various zoning districts, prohibit transient accommodations with more than 20 rooms in the B-2 Community Business District, limit timeshare plans to hotels and B-2 districts only and would prohibit the temporary parking of RVs and recreational vehicles used for transient lodging unless permitted by zoning and permit.
According to the Maui County Planning Department, there were a total of 24,425 visitor accommodation units in 2021 on Maui, including 13,029 residential condos used for transient lodging, 8,336 rooms in 41 hotels, 2,475 units timeshare condominiums, 420 single-family dwellings authorized or benefiting from acquired rights, 165 single-family bed and breakfast operations and 134 condos in the hotel zone not used for transient accommodation.
Nearly 30 people testified Tuesday with about 20 opponents of the bill, about six in favor and others who remained neutral.
Wayne Hedani, president of the Kaanapali Operations Association, called the bill a “illegal taking of acquired rights”, especially when it comes to capping units in hotel districts.
“This makes the moratorium permanent without a legal basis”, Hedani said. “Moratoria must be limited, with a beginning and an end. It has no end and in my opinion it is not legal from this point of view.
He said hotels are already capped by existing zoning and cannot exceed existing height and floor space requirements as well as building codes.
“Hotels have paid for zoned land for 60 years, with 12-story zoning in H-2 properties,” Hedani said. “You are now saying that you cannot make the most of this existing zoning. You will be capped regardless of your building envelope. It penalizes those who have not built to the maximum density. This adds to Hawaii’s reputation as a business purgatory.
David Clements, a 26-year Maui resident and bartender at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, said that “Any moratorium on construction in the future combined with the same number of tourists coming to the islands is just going to lead to increased use of our non-hotel areas in a way that doesn’t satisfy residents.”
He said that in his direct experience working with visitors, people staying at hotels aren’t the ones who fill up Target, Costco and the beach parks.
“When they stay at our hotels and resorts, they tend to congregate and stay at the hotel and resort. They have a beach right in front of them. They don’t tend to drive to say, Baby Beach in Spreckelsville and take up all those parking spaces. To me, it’s the people who come in from these STRHS and illegal rentals, it’s not the hotel guests doing that,” said Clement.
Supporters of the bill said it would not eliminate current jobs or current housing, as rally attendees and witnesses alluded to.
Albert Perez, executive director of Maui Tomorrow, said the bill will not reduce existing housing or affect existing jobs.
“Furthermore, the fear that this bill will push tourists into residential areas does not justify the construction of more hotels,” Perez said. “We already have caps on short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts in residential areas, so what we need to do is crack down on these illegal operations, not say we can’t do anything about it.”
As for the assertion that the bill will be a “illegal catch” Perez said state law allows the county to phase out certain uses over a reasonable period of time, but that cannot be done for single-family, duplex or farm uses.
“Just to be clear, the purpose of the moratorium was to give us time to consider more permanent measures and that is exactly what we are doing,” he said. “Overtourism continues to grow and we have already greatly exceeded the 33% ratio adopted in the law. The first step to solving a problem is to stop making it worse.
Kai Nishiki, an environmental and coastal access activist, testified in support of the bill.
“Our children don’t leave because they can’t find work, it’s because they don’t want to be servants to tourists for the rest of their lives. They want jobs they can progress to, use the degrees they went to school for, and homes they can really afford. There are no affordable rentals, no really accessible homes to buy, which is why they are leaving,” she says. “Unions and the construction industry, we have work to do for you. Have you seen our crumbling infrastructure, our roads, our sewers, our water pipes, our sewage systems? Have you seen all the buildings and hotels built in the 70s fall into the ocean? There is a huge opportunity for a long-term construction boom, with rising sea levels, coastal erosion and aging buildings.
The bill was scheduled for review by the Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday, but due to a procedural issue with the South Maui Advisory Committee, the commission did not receive a formal recommendation from the committee, as required. The planning commission intends to meet again on the bill at the end of September. He can make recommendations on the bill, but the Maui County Council will have the final say.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at [email protected]