Council overturns mayor’s moratorium veto | News, Sports, Jobs


Maui County Council on Friday voted 6 to 3 to overturn Mayor Michael Victorino’s veto on a bill that would impose a moratorium on new visitor accommodation in Maui. Council members supporting the bill hope it will help mitigate the impacts of tourism on Maui, though those who oppose it fear it will hurt an industry that employs many residents. – The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

Maui County Council members voted Friday night to overturn Mayor Michael Victorino’s veto on a bill that establishes a temporary moratorium on new transient accommodation in Maui.

Members voted 6-3 in favor of overturning the veto that Victorino said last month was necessary because he feared a moratorium would in turn create “An influx of vacation rentals in our residential areas”.

Friday’s vote mirrored previous council votes in which the bill’s author, Vice President Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, as well as council members Mike Molina, Kelly King, Tamara Paltin, Shane Sinenci and Gabe Johnson, were in favor of the waiver.

Council Chair Alice Lee along with Council members Tasha Kama and Yuki Lee Sugimura opposed the moratorium.

With the passage of the bill, the moratorium will be in place for two years or – whichever comes first – until a law is enacted by a temporary inquiry group established by the council that establishes a limit of transitional accommodation by type and by community plan area.

Island Plant Co. team members Mark Carreon (left), Jonathan Dameg and Dimetrio Gonzalez install an irrigation system as construction continues at the AC Hotel by Marriott Maui Wailea project in February. Maui County Council on Friday voted 6 to 3 to overturn Mayor Michael Victorino’s veto on a bill that would impose a moratorium on new visitor accommodation in Maui. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The order applies to any new temporary accommodation that has not received its final discretionary approvals by the order’s effective date, according to the bill.

About 50 people testified about the veto on Friday, of whom about 30 called for the veto to be overturned and 20 others called for the veto to be maintained.

Representatives from the hospitality and construction sectors backed the veto, saying a moratorium would impact jobs and other businesses and the bill would not bar visitors from coming. But those supporting the moratorium have said something needs to be done to manage the visitor industry to protect the environment and Maui’s way of life. They added that the bill would only halt development and would not take away any existing hotels or businesses.

Victorino, in vetoing the bill, said it could worsen the housing crisis as people can rent to visitors rather than local families and the bill lacks transparency and public input. , with modifications made at second reading at the beginning of December.

During the vote, Rawlins-Fernandez countered Victorino, asserting his claims of lack of transparency and public input. “Is unfounded”.

“There has been so much public comment as has been demonstrated today”, she said.

She added that the changes to the bill at second and final reading were not substantial as suggested by the mayor, but rather clarified the ordinance.

As to the possible proliferation of illegal vacation rentals, Rawlins-Fernandez said she had “confidence” to the mayor that the county would be able to crack down on them if necessary.

Council passed a different version of a moratorium on visitor accommodation in July, but the mayor vetoed the measure and council was unable to get the six votes needed to overturn it.

King, who proposed the moratorium bill earlier, said on Friday, “I think there was a lot of misinformation in our testimony that we received today, which came from a reading list sent out by some in the industry. We are not trying to shut down the industry. We are taking a break to control the industry.

King said it’s a “Cork” measure to allow the board to determine how to move forward.

Paltin said the community needs to find solutions to the problem, not just leave it to the temporary investigation group.

She is also keen to support the construction industry and said that there are potential jobs in her district of West Maui as the properties as well as the highway suffer damage from sea level rise and have need repairs.

But she said that overall “We have to start doing things a little differently. . . Take those two years to figure it out and focus on a circular economy.

Lee agreed that the island needs to diversify its economy based on tourism and that it would take more than a temporary investigative group to find solutions, but added that the council should not play with an industry that provides substantial income to the county.

“With all their flaws, we have to be careful how we scale down this industry before we have anything to replace it”, Lee said, noting that the tourism industry generates at least 50% of the county’s property tax revenue.

She said the responsibility for not having enough affordable housing lies with the council and administration, not tourism, adding that “you have to have money” to pay for affordable housing and infrastructure such as new roads.

Sugimura said she did not support the bill, noting that it implied “A false sense of security”, that it will prevent visitors from coming to Maui.

She added that the visitor industry was impacting layers of other industries, not only hotels, but also farmers and ranchers, as seen during the pandemic shutdown when those industries had needed help when visitors were not coming to the island.

“I do not support this moratorium. I support working families, people who work hard to send their children to school ”, Sugimura said.

Kama said her late husband worked in the construction industry, and told bricklayers, laborers and other laborers to “go do something else” for two years can be difficult.

“I don’t know what else is,” she said.

“I’m going to support these guys because I love them and I know how difficult it will be for them if this bill passes.”

In a statement released Friday evening, Victorino said that although he was disappointed, he “Intends to make the most of the two-year break. “

“We must move forward and focus on the future of our people and our commitment to economic diversification and recovery from this crippling pandemic,” he added. said Victorino. “I agree with Chairman Lee. We need to look beyond the hospitality industry and improve the balance of our economy by supporting industries such as diverse agriculture, the arts, technology, welfare, cultural education and catering. ‘environment.

* Melissa Tanji can be contacted at [email protected]

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