Land laws could delay transit tax
City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said he would consider delaying implementing the new transit tax if Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration doesn't speed up land-use law changes for communities around transit stations.
"I'm open to implementing the tax at a later date until they're ready," Dela Cruz said after a meeting during which the Council Zoning Committee approved two requests for such changes.
Dela Cruz and other Council members grilled members of Hannemann's administration yesterday as to why the administration isn't moving quicker to seek the changes in the city's land-use laws to promote transit-oriented development -- since rail appears to be the front-runner as the city's mass-transit choice.
"I'm a little taken aback that you don't want us to even ask the administration -- that's all we're doing is asking the administration -- look at transit-oriented development prior to our selection of a (mass-transit system)," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said.
The City Council is expected to select a mass-transit system by the end of the year from four options: rail; dedicated toll highway lanes; enhanced bus system; or do nothing. The administration is in the midst of putting together a study of the choices and will send its recommendation to the Council by Nov. 1.
The 0.5 percent tax to finance a mass-transit system for Honolulu is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
But members of the Hannemann administration said it's a little premature to seek land-use changes before the Council decides for sure whether it will go with rail and the city runs the risk of doing more harm than good.
"The mayor is very much aware of how important a transit-oriented development program can be to a transit project. It can be a vehicle for saving taxpayers money," said Dan Orodenker, special assistant to the mayor. "However, transit-oriented development isn't a given. It does fail if it's not done properly and it can be a detriment to the community if the community does not want it in that particular area."
The committee approved two resolutions. One asks the administration to investigate transit-oriented development over lay districts, which allows for certain zoning changes without changing the zoning until it is requested. The second resolution would permit hotels to be built next to major transit centers. They now move on to the full Council.