The Molokai Planning Commission held four public hearings today, three of which resulted in action to change the rules that govern the Commission’s practices and procedures.
Also during today’s proceedings, the MoPC said farewell to two departing longtime members — Chairman John Sprinzel and Janice Kalanihuia.
As the only government body that holds regular meetings on Molokai, the MoPC holds authority over the management and development of shoreline areas around the island. Today’s changes were designed to make the rules and appeals process more consistent with state law while giving the Commission greater enforcement authority.
Reviewing and recommending permits for the use of land in Special Management Areas (generally speaking, the shoreline areas surrounding Molokai) makes up the bulk of the MoPC’s work. After approving chapter 301 in its rules of practice and procedures, the Commission now can issue an “order to show cause.” Under this new rule, the party accused of violating the law must show the MoPC why a permit should not be revoked, amended or modified or why the proposed action should not be deemed a development.
Another change in this section regards notice. When the MoPC schedules a public hearing it must now publish that notice in the Molokai Dispatch newspaper. If no newspaper exists on Molokai, the notice shall be published in The Maui News. In the past, one notice in The Maui News was deemed sufficient.
During the public hearing, former Commissioner Lori Buchanan questioned if this was good enough. “People never see it (notices in newspapers),” said Buchanan. “In the past, (Maui County) staff would post notices in recognized places. I would hope the staff would does this.”
The rule change was passed with the condition that hearing notices would be posted on public bulletin boards in at least four different locations around the island.
Streamlining the SMA exemption process in chapter 302 took most of the MoPC’s time at today’s meeting held at the State Building in Kaunakakai. One amendment will relax the requirement for a certified shoreline survey in certain situations. If an action will not disturb the ground, impede access or expand an existing structure, the Maui County Planning Director William Spence may waive the requirement for a survey.
In her public testimony, Buchanan questioned whether this rule change reduced local authority in the case of someone seeking an exemption from SMA permitting. “I see this as a lessening of our exemption authority,” said Buchanan. County staff explained how the rule change works: when an exemption request comes to the MoPC it may choose to waive its review, in which case the exemption goes through after 45 days (a change from 30 days), or refer it for a future hearing. In the past, an exemption request had to be scheduled for the next MoPC meeting, slowing down the permitting process.
Buchanan also raised concerns about the consistency of this rule change with the Molokai community plan. The plan, which began in 2010, has fallen behind its scheduled completion in 2013. “These are substantive changes,” explained Buchanan, “and we needed the entire community to provide feedback on this.”
Questioning the cultural inclusiveness of these rule changes was Wayde Lee, a representative of the Pala’au moku o the Aha Kiole (a community-based planning group that advises the Department of Land and Natural Resources). “We are tired of outsiders playing us like pawns,” said Lee. “We would like to be the resource for the community, the ones who can go to the community to sort out what’s appropriate for the community … we are available for management help.”
Lee believes these rules are not consistent with the Hawaiian way of doing things. In particular, he is concerned about the lack of protocol. This involves asking permission before taking any action that would disturb the land. “This is the unwritten rule that needs to be written,” said Lee.
Also testifying was John Givens from Wavecrest Condominiums on the East End. One rule amendment now allows the Planning Director to assess a $100,000 fine initially, followed by $10,000 per day for a violation of SMA rules. With the average Molokai household earning about $40,000 per year, Givens believes these fines are out of line for Molokai. MoPC staff explained that these new fines are the same as the state fines directed at large developers.
Chapter 304 — which specifies prohibited activity in SMA areas and how violations will be enforced — was amended to make it easier to serve proper notice to violators. The amended rule spells out the notification process and the appeals process. The new rules details exactly how violators will be fined and the process that will be used. These changes were approved unanimously.
The changes in chapter 303, relating to special uses in agricultural and rural districts, were deferred until the next MoPC meeting on April 9. As this entire section, including the subchapters, was new to the MoPC rules, commissioners felt they needed more time to review the changes.