Overriding Maui mayor’s veto, County Council passes moratorium on new hotel construction
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County Council voted to force a controversial two-year moratorium on new hotels and visitor lodgings, overriding the mayor’s veto of the bill.
Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who introduced the bill, said the moratorium isn’t intended to stop tourists from coming, but rather halts permits for new construction. She said this gives the county time to come up with a plan to control over-tourism, diversify the economy, and provide more affordable housing.
Maui Mayor Mike Victorino vetoed the bill back in July. He and tourism leaders say the moratorium is the wrong solution to the island’s problems.
“We need to reset,” said Blossom Feteira of Makawao. “We need to have time to be able to rethink what the picture of Maui is going to be.”
“And you know, we don’t want the first thing that visitors see is our homelessness, so we want to find a solution,” said Lahela Aiwohi, vice-president of the Hawaii Hotel Alliance.
Rawlins-Fernandez said the moratorium is in place for two years but could end early if the county enacts new legislation with limits on transient accommodations.
She said this won’t cripple the economy, as some fear.
“During this moratorium, labor unions that rely on work from new hotel and resort construction will still be able to do renovation work that do not increase the number of units,” Rawlins-Fernandez explained. “And will be able to complete work on projects that received its final discretionary permits.”
But the Hawaii Hotel Alliance says there will be some economic fallout for developers who’s permits are pending and workers.
“Additional employees that would be able to staff, the construction workers, our bricklayers, our painters,” said Aiwohi. “We have one hotel that currently uses about 75 of our Maui local vendors.”
Victorino has said he agrees the island needs to stop over tourism, but he vetoed the moratorium, calling it the wrong solution.
“We need to move on and focus on the future of our people and our commitment to economic diversification and recovery from this crippling pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Some worry the ban on new permits will lead to an explosion of illegal vacation rentals.
But, councilmember Rawlins-Fernandez says a recent crackdown has the problem under control.
“The council has been working diligently to stop its proliferation and the planning department has been doing a great job with enforcement,” said Rawlins-Fernandez.
“We need to have a deeper and more cognizant conversation around the use of our public places. Because they are our public place,” Feteira said.
The council’s investigative group oversees coming up with the legislation that could end the moratorium early. Its final report is due next month.
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