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A Modest Proposal for Molokai Self-Governance

Opinion by David Hafermann

Having observed the governance of Molokai from Maui over the past several years, one wonders how the highly detailed rules, codes, forms and other “red tape” for a community of over 150,000 people can be rationally and even fairly applied to a geographically, economically, and culturally separate rural community of  7,000 people. 

At the risk of being labeled a malcontentious outsider, I can state that my previous home town of 2,000 people would never accept all the rules, codes, forms and “red tape” of the city of 200,000 people that is 20 miles away.  Making all the rules of Maui County fit Molokai is the proverbial square-peg-round-hole problem.  The permitting decisions for Special Management Areas (SMA), buildings, businesses, etc.  are essentially made on Maui and, where applicable, are presented to the Molokai Planning Commission where the rules can get in the way of common sense and delay worthy local projects.

Maui County officials, having so many detailed rules, can find a reason to deny anything if they are so inclined; just witness the SMA process for the Molokai veteran’s project.  The same officials can call a proposed palatial west end estate a Molokai “farm dwelling” and a medical clinic a “philanthropic institution,” but as the words “veteran’s center” did not appear in the “rule,” it was not approved.   And what were the “rules” that delayed Paddlers Inn from starting back up the way it had been operating before?  And then there are two Maui County departments who cannot agree on “fire flow” for the veteran’s project.  Rules and codes are necessary but they should be reasonably and locally interpreted and applied. 

 So here is my modest proposal:  first develop an expeditious process that is unique to Molokai for all permits (SMA, building, business, etc.).  Second, develop a simple and expeditious process to address variances and appeals to the Maui County rules here on Molokai. (Do you know that there is not one Molokai representative on the present Maui County Board of Variances and Appeals?)   One could expand the responsibility of the Molokai Planning Commission for this purpose.   Finally, to give oversight in case things get too far astray from the Maui County rules, create oversight by the Maui County Council for any variance granted on Molokai, but require that two-thirds of the Maui County Council agree to overturning any variance granted on Molokai and that it be done quickly (within 30 days), or the Molokai decision will stand. Think about it. If you agree, send this along to our Maui County Council members. 

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