Friday, April 6, 2001

Maui County

Building moratorium
urged for parts of Maui

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> Except for affordable- and public-housing projects, Maui Councilwoman JoAnne Johnson wants to stop construction in South and West Maui for a year, until county officials are able to develop a transportation master plan.

Two bills drafted by her are expected to be introduced today before the Maui County Council.

Johnson said traffic problems are increasing in South and West Maui, with no short- or long-term plan for solving them.

She said the County Council passed an ordinance in the late 1980s requiring the county to develop a traffic master plan for South and West Maui, but no plan was developed by prior administrations.

Mayor James "Kimo" Apana has been working with the Traffic Action Committee to develop a plan. The committee, which held public meetings this year, is expected to turn in its report to Apana next week.

Johnson said the introduction of the bills will force people to pay attention to the problem.

"I'm basically trying to force the issue by doing this," she said.

Johnson said she does not expect the moratorium to solve the traffic problems, but it would prevent traffic problems from worsening and give lawmakers time to resolve planning issues, such as imposing fair traffic-impact fees.

She said the Council passed an ordinance in 1989 calling for builders in South and West Maui to pay a fee toward a traffic-improvement fund, but no formula was ever developed to assess the fee, and no fee was collected.

Johnson said in return for receiving zoning approvals, developers have promised to build some 3,200 units of affordable-housing units on Maui, but the structures have never been developed because there was no deadline for construction.

Opponents of a moratorium, including Apana and many builders, say it would be the wrong way to solve the traffic problem.

"What JoAnne Johnson should look for is solutions, not bringing everything to a halt," said Jack Freitas, a spokesman for the Maui Contractors Association.

"We elect our public officials to act responsibly, and their responsibility is to get the infrastructure to keep this county going."

Brian Miskae, an executive assistant to Apana, said a building moratorium could have negative short- and long-term results, including a downgrade in the county's bond rating if investor confidence dropped.

Miskae said that for the most part, the developers have not provided the affordable housing they promised because they have not moved forward with their projects.

He agreed that a study needs to be done to develop a fair way of charging builders a traffic-impact fee.

Miskae said Apana has been involved in developing short-term solutions, such as the coning of traffic on Haleakala Highway, and the mayor's Traffic Action Committee is preparing a report with long-term solutions, including ideas about public transportation.

Maui County

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