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Ask the Mayor: Building
Permits; Homeowner Exemptions

Updated 09:32 AM HST, April 12, 2013
Posted 05:57 PM HST, April 5, 2013

File photo.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers a few of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Dear Mayor,

Q: As a longtime Kahului resident, I have noticed that the residential area over the years has construction that appears not to be in compliance with zoning and building codes, such as apartment-type buildings, rental units, multiple-family dwellings that are constructed in addition to the allowed second dwelling on a lot. Also, there are a number of building extensions which extend up to the property line not respecting the set back line. My understanding is that any construction that takes place requires a building permit, so do these buildings have the County’s blessings? I have also noticed a number of commercial-type activity within the residential area like the overnight parking of large trucks, heavy equipment, commercial-type boats and large trailers on the road right-of-way.

A: All structures need building permits unless they are specifically exempt. Building permits are processed by the Department of Public Works, Development Services Administration (DSA). They review permits for compliance with the building code, which includes building setbacks and heights. Most building permits are also routed to the Planning Department to determine compliance with zoning, which includes the number or density of dwellings allowed on each lot. Assuming that street parking is allowed, the parking of commercial vehicles and boats in a residential area can be a gray area. If there is no commercial activity being conducted on the residential lot, then there probably is not a violation. Some businesses allow their employees to take work vehicles home; however, if commercial activity is taking place, then it could be a zoning violation. If you are aware of construction without permits, construction that may not be in compliance with permits, or commercial activity in residential areas, then you may file a Request for Service which can lead to an inspection by Public Works and/or Planning.


Dear Mayor,

Q: With property taxes being the largest revenue generator for the County, why doesn’t the County ask residents to positively certify compliance with the homeowner exemption on a yearly basis? A simple statement on the property tax assessment reminding us of what the requirement is such as, “I certify under penalty of law that I lived in the stated property a minimum of 200 days in 2012,” might suffice.

A: Indeed, it’s important to make sure that only bona fide residents receive the homeowner exemption on their property tax bill. Rather than asking residents to self-certify, the Real Property Tax Assessment Division runs the Homeowner exemptions against resident tax payer lists from the state of Hawaii, and addresses are compared to listings from the US Postal Service. These comparisons are run electronically, which makes them very efficient. With over 26,500 homeowner exemption parcels, processing this much mail annually would be costly, time-consuming and less effective than the current system.


Dear Mayor,

Q: I am writing about the continued decrepit condition of Amala Place road in Kahului. This road is in absolutely horrible condition and creates a very bad impression of Maui as it is traveled by many tourists by way of the cruise ships and to the airport. The only safe way to traverse it – especially after a rain – is to drive on the shoulder where the pavement is in slightly better condition. Can you please see what you can do about getting this properly paved?  I don’t mean filling in of potholes, which happens each time it rains.

A: The good news is that Amala Place will be repaved sometime this year in conjunction with the Wastewater Reclamation Division’s force main project. The paving project will run from Hobron Lane to the Kahului Wastewater Treatment Plant.


Want to Ask the Mayor?   Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov, phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

HEADLINE NEWS Weekly Newsletter
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  • GrampsJoe

    Hooey! Text is too small on this article. Cannot find my reading glasses. Please make text larger!!!

    • ttomni6

      You can try changing the text size option in your web browser. Use the VIEW pulldown menu and change the ZOOM setting.

    • GrampsJoe

      Okay, that’s better; thank you.

  • SMTKihei

    The mayor’s answer to the first question is disingenuous and written as if he is unaware of what’s really going on in Kahului (and other areas, too.) He has to know because he lives there. The proliferation of illegal dwellings/apartments in single family neighborhoods has been a problem for years and one that no politician, including the mayor, will touch. Separate floors, rooms, garages, and sheds are rented out – many on a cash basis. Additions, extensions and separate ohanas are built with kitchens and without permits because it’s not legal to build them otherwise. All you have to do is drive through much of Kahului at night to see that there are many more cars parked on lawns and the roads than there would be if each house had one main house and one ohana. Even though the subdivisions were never designed to accommodate all the people that live there (width of streets too small, water pressure too little, meters too small, sewerlines inadequate,not enough parking, etc.), the County doesn’t enforce the laws on the books because so much of Maui’s population lives this way. The County system is “complaint driven” so the rules aren’t enforced evenly and everyone is vulnerable to the complaint of a neighbor. Overnight parking is prohibited by County code, but it isn’t enforced. Good luck getting a fire truck down some of these roads at night. This is all because there is not enough affordable housing for the people on Maui. It would make a lot more sense for polititians to admit the problem and do something about it. Upzone the areas to multi-family use and improve the County infrastructure. Then, the owners could get the permits that they need for their illegal dwellings and the County would get more money in taxes for the services that they already provide. And renters wouldn’t be forced to live in substandard conditions. Why have laws on the books if they aren’t enforced except against a few unlucky ones who don’t get along with their neighbors?