Planning Commission Votes to Eliminate Stacking.

By Melissa Kelsey

Two motions passed by the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) last Wednesday could prevent certain types of businesses and homes from being built on small areas of Molokai land.    

No More Stacking
Coffees of Hawaii in Kualapu`u is a business that includes retail and restaurant operations, but it is built on land zoned for purely industrial purposes. A planning concept called “stacking” keeps Coffees of Hawaii legal. Besides manufacturing operations, stacking allows other business classifications to operate on industrial zoned land. These businesses include retail, restaurant and entertainment enterprises.

The first motion passed by the MoPC recommended that the Maui County Council no longer allow non-industrial businesses on Molokai land zoned for industrial use. Stacking  in these areas would be discontinued, with two important exceptions. First, businesses already existing on industrial zones would not be affected. As a result, Coffees of Hawaii and other non-industrial businesses already on industrial zones are safe. However, if those businesses ever cease to exist in the future, they could only be replaced by those that are industrial based. The second exception permits quasi-public organizations, such as the Molokai Veterans Center, to be allowed on industrial zones.

The Molokai Community Plan states that light industrial zones are “for warehousing, light assembly, service and craft-type industrial operations.” Heavy industrial zones are “for major industrial operations whose effects are potentially noxious due to noise, airborne emissions or liquid discharges.”

Commissioner Lori Buchanan cited making Molokai zoning more closely resemble the Molokai Community Plan as one reason for the motion. In addition, she explained that it is important to keep hazardous industrial plants away from town to protect the safety of Molokai residents.

“Anybody existing now will not be affected, but the new people are,” said Buchanan. “You are not going to be able to stack your resources in light industrial zones anymore,” she said.    

Not in Hotel Zones, Either
Concerns have been voiced about the prospect of individuals buying hotel-zoned land on Molokai’s west end to build single-family residences.

Partly in response to possibilities like this, the second motion the MoPC passed recommended that the Maui County Council no longer allow residences and other non-hotel uses on Molokai land zoned for hotels. They voted to eliminate stacking in Molokai hotel zones, also with two exceptions. Existing residences and non-hotel uses on hotel zones would be exempt. In addition, the MoPC voted that parks and government buildings be allowed in hotel zones.

The Other Side of the Story

MoPC Vice Chair Steve Chaikin expressed concern that limiting businesses on industrial zones outside of town could prove problematic if gas prices increase to the point where it is difficult for residents to travel to town. Molokai resident Diane Swenson, who owns a portion of Molokai’s industrial zoned land, said eliminating stacking would create further barriers for the community and make it even more difficult for people to start healthy businesses on Molokai.

Where It All Started
County planners noticed that on Maui, businesses and residences are overcrowding industrial and hotel zones. So the Maui County Council drafted two bills last month that propose amending the law to prohibit stacking for those zones. The bills are making their way around the county, gathering community input. On Molokai, Maui County Planning Director Jeffrey Hunt asked members of the MoPC to make a recommendation on the bills for the Friendly Isle.

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