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Sunday, April 28, 2024
April 28, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:14 PM :: 1273 Views

Legislature on Brink of Advancing Brighter Future

Legislature ain't over till it's over, so there's still hope for housing bill

The Home Stretch at the Legislature

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

BLNR Boosts Honolua Bay Yacht Grounding Fine to $1.8M

Kayak Rental Co fined $35K for Blue Law Violations

CNBC report notes how Jones Act leads to higher Matson shipping prices

Lahaina: Red tape to blame for lack of Maui housing

SA: … Time for Hawaii politicians to be real with their constituents instead of pandering to the disadvantaged with their shell game. Displaced Maui residents need housing now. There is no excuse for not providing modular housing like other communities struck by catastrophe, such as Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

When you lock up land with nearly impossible requirements and a years-long approval process, it drives the cost of development through the roof. Once again, look to the politicians, who try to blame short-term rentals when they know there are constitutional impediments to altering previously granted approvals. Instead, open up more land zoned for low-cost housing and let the basic laws of supply and demand bring down costs.

Want Maui — and all of Hawaii — to be strong? Then demand that politicians cut the red tape and free up more land for low-cost housing now!

Pandering: Editorial: Press FEMA for long-term units

read … Letter: Red tape to blame for lack of Maui housing

Will Lahaina Homeowners Get A Reprieve From Coastal Zone Rules?

CB: … Lahaina homeowners trying to rebuild after the August wildfires will be able to rebuild faster than might have been previously possible thanks to state and county actions that are removing restrictive regulations and speeding up the permitting process.

First, the Coastal Zone Management Act has been suspended for Lahaina under Gov. Josh Green’s Emergency Proclamation Relating To Wildfires, said Mary Alice Evans, director of the state Office of Planning and Sustainable Development. The office administers Hawaii’s CZMA, which governs much of Lahaina’s burn zone. 

Second, Evans said, a new county Recovery Permitting Center will hasten the process for obtaining building permits, the main land use entitlement needed now that the coastal zone law is suspended. …

The Recovery Permitting Center will be open only for residential properties, and the county has not unveiled an alternative plan for commercial properties. This along with other issues makes the  future of Front Street uncertain….

Much of Lahaina, including the burn zone makai of Honoapiilani Highway, is designated as a special management area — which means people seeking to rebuild there would face a complicated process if not for the emergency proclamation, said Thorne Abbott, a former Maui County coastal planner who now works as a consultant. 

The law generally requires developments costing more than $500,000 to go through a lengthy SMA permitting process, including a public hearing where opponents can object to the project. Multifamily home and commercial properties would need to go through this “major permit” process, which means Maui County might have to hold hundreds of public hearings.

“If you’re first up, it might take you a year” to get a major permit, said David Callies, a retired law professor and author of “Regulating Paradise: Land Use Controls in Hawaii.” “But as you said there are hundreds. If you’re number 55, it could take three years.”…

Numerous questions remain, particularly related to commercial rebuilding. 

There’s the potential application of historic preservation and environmental review laws to some projects, which could trigger the need for archaeological studies and environmental assessments or environmental impact statements, Abbott said….

Additional issues could complicate rebuilding along Front Street. In addition to special management areas, the coastal zone management statute governs shoreline setbacks. State law requires a setback of at least 40 feet from the shoreline and imposes restrictions, including a public hearing requirement, before most types of construction can happen in the setback zone. 

New Maui shoreline setback rules were adopted by the Maui Planning Commission in November but have not been signed by the mayor. Those establish a shoreline setback of as much as 200 feet in some instances. But it’s not clear when or if Mayor Richard Bissen will sign those into law. 

Beyond shoreline setbacks, there are other issues likely to hinder rebuilding Lahaina’s commercial area along Front Street, Abbott said. Portions are designated as flood hazard areas by FEMA, which means getting insurance for anything built there would be costly even if the county allowed it, Abbott said….

Still, Callies said, given Lahaina’s proximity to the ocean, it’s conceivable someone would go to court to limit or stop rebuilding, even if property owners wanted to go back home. 

“It would not be popular,” he said of such litigation. “But that’s never stopped them before.”…

read … Rebuilding Lahaina: Homeowners In The Seaside Town May Get A Reprieve From Coastal Zone Rules

Economy Still Lagging: State Budget Aided by COVID Money from the Sky

Borreca: ... the state is still in the throes of coping with the disastrous Lahaina fire that leveled a prime neighbor island tourist center.

State financial reports from last month said: “Hawaii’s real gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2023 (latest estimate available) recovered to 97.7 percent of the same period in 2019.”

Economists said “Hawaii is one of three states in the nation that have not fully recovered from the 2020 recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The other two states are North Dakota and Louisiana.”

In published reports, though, Gov. Josh Green says things are turning up.

Green said that the new budget “appears to fund our people’s main priorities, and we hope and expect that pending bills will provide sufficient support for Maui’s recovery and tax relief for families in Hawaii who are struggling the most.”

Still James Tokioka, state business and economic chief, said “our economy is going to grow slowly in 2024, and while it is not a recession, it will be slower than our growth last year and slower than the nation’s economic growth.”

Add to that the expectation that it will take seven years for local tourism to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

So this week when state lawmakers stand to praise their budget prowess, remember that they are reaping the benefits of a 6% growth in personal income, and that government contracts in 2023 reached an all-time high of $5 billion.

We are spending more, but there are still no indications of new growth….

SFG: Hawaii once saw 1.5M visitors from Japan. Many aren't returning (sfgate.com)

BH: Hawaii Tourism Authority Now Says U.S. Mainland Visitors Desperately Needed!

SA: Hawaii Tourism Agency campaign targets U.S. market | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

read … On Politics: Legislature’s budget aided by government contracts

Hawaii State House and Senate alone in call for ceasefire in Gaza

HNN: … Hawaii is the first (only) state to call for a permanent and immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

One month after the Hawaii State Senate adopted the Hawaii Ceasefire Resolution by a vote of 24–1, the Hawaii State House voted 48–3 on Monday to approve a House Draft of SCR13 as well….

President Biden posted on X saying he will not rest until all the hostages taken by Hamas have been returned to their families….

…since Hamas initially attacked Israel on Oct. 7, about 1,600 Israeli people have been confirmed dead….

read … Hawaii state House and Senate first in nation to call for ceasefire in Gaza

HART Infighting a Sign Rail Contract may be in Trouble?

SA: … Kahikina isn’t the only culprit if numbers for the urban contract go sour.

Tensions between her and Hanabusa began in 2021, when she issued what she felt was an honest estimate of $12.5 billion to finish to Ala Moana Center as planned, $3.5 billion more than HART’s $9 billion funding at the time.

Hanabusa dubiously cut the estimate to $11.4 billion based on a shadowy audit. Blangiardi erased the rest of the deficit by giving HART much of the city’s hotel tax and working with Kahikina to end the line at South Street, two stations short of Ala Moana.

Natalie Iwasa, a nonvoting legislative board appointee, said it best: “Here we are with a HART board battering our CEO and creating this corrosive atmosphere. It is not good for HART, it is not good for the bidders.”…

read … David Shapiro: Discord drives the beat at the heart of HART

Officers posted outside Mayor’s office after alleged heated discussion with Ocean Safety chief

HNN: … Honolulu police officers are posted outside the Mayor’s office at Honolulu Hale after an alleged heated discussion between the Mayor and the Division Chief of Ocean Safety.

John Titchen was put on unpaid administrative leave this week.

Multiple sources tell Hawaii News Now an investigation was launched after a meeting between Titchen and the Mayor earlier this month.

The Mayor is out of town. A city spokesperson would not comment on that meeting but said that “perceived security threats” sometimes warrant additional coverage regarding additional security….

read … Officers posted outside Mayor’s office after alleged heated discussion with Ocean Safety chief

Navy data on Red Hill deflects serious health issues

SA: … The Navy on Friday released several documents regarding its data on the health impact of the November 2021 Red Hill fuel spills, just before a federal trial begins Monday in a lawsuit brought by affected families against the federal government alleging the spill has caused long-term health damage.

The Navy released three documents about water quality data as well as reports of medical and mental health issues reported to military care providers in the aftermath of the incident, during which JP-5 jet fuel stored at the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility tainted the service’s Oahu water system, which serves 93,000 people — including service members, military families and civilians living in former military housing areas.

In the documents, the Navy concluded that while fuel entered the water system, it asserted that “the available data demonstrate a lack of a (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) systemwide impact associated with JP-5 fuel,” and said the main “exposure time frame” was Nov. 20-29, 2021, before the Navy shut off the tainted Red Hill water well. It argued that after Dec. 3, 2021, 100% of the drinking water supplied to the Navy system was from the Waiawa Shaft, “which was not impacted by the JP-5 fuel release.”

The Navy also found that while there was a spike in doctors’ visits around the spill, involving a variety of symptoms ranging from rashes to intestinal problems, neurological issues and psychological symptoms, by the end of December the visits “returned to pre-release levels.”….

AP: A Hawaii military family avoids tap water at home. They're among those suing over 2021 jet fuel leak

read … Navy data on Red Hill deflects serious health issues

Draft EIS: PTA lease extension could have positive impact on wallet of activists

HTH: … A draft environmental impact statement released earlier this month about the Army’s proposal to renew its lease on up to 22,750 acres of state land at Pohakuloa Training Area indicated that granting the extension could have an adverse impact on Hawaiian cultural practices and environmental justice….(said) Group 70 International, the consultant for the EIS…

(TRANSLATION: OHA expects money from this lease renewal.  OHA will distribute the money to “Hawaiian cultural practices and environmental justice.”)

The state and the Army signed the current 65-year lease in 1964. The Army paid $1…

That lease, which expires on Aug. 16, 2029, is for almost 23,000 acres of the 132,000-acre military training installation in the Big Island’s “Saddle” area. Since 2017, the Army has worked almost continuously on renewal of the lease….

This is the second draft of the environmental document; the first was published in 2022. A final EIS would be the next step….

Big Q: Should the state renew its lease with Makua Military Reservation when it expires in 2029?

read … Draft EIS: PTA lease extension could have adverse impact - Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Frequent Withdrawals Of Nominees Hinder Green's Efforts To Fill Boards And Commissions

CB: … Of the more than 200 gubernatorial nominations submitted to the Hawaii State Senate since January for 97 boards and commissions, 25 of them were later withdrawn.

That compares to just eight withdrawals in Gov. David. Ige’s second year in office and includes four that were pulled in the past two weeks….

read … Frequent Withdrawals Of Nominees Hinder Green's Efforts To Fill Boards And Commissions

Basic funding question still dogs HTA

GRIH: Retired University of Hawaii social sciences professor Noel Kent asked the multimillion dollar question in Sunday's Honolulu Star-Advertiser concerning future legislative funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. After describing the agency as "notorious for lack of both public transparency and experience in environmental work," he queried: "Why at a time of financial shortfalls is an outfit devoted to increasing the profits of a highly profitable industry being financed by public tax monies?" Grassroot research associate Melissa Newsham considered this same question in 2021 in her commentary "Time to get the state out of tourism promotion?"

read … Basic Funding

Florida water report a path for Hawaii?

GRIH: …A new report co-published by PERC and The James Madison Institute makes the case for water markets to address Florida's water woes — and could provide a template for future water policy in Hawaii. Section I of the report, "Tapping Water Markets in Florida," provides a brief overview of water markets, how they function, and the advantages they have over political water allocation. Section II presents clearly defined, secure and transferable property rights as the building blocks of all water markets. Section III suggests several key policy reforms needed to unleash the power of water markets in Florida….

read … Florida Path

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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