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Maui mayor vetoes hotel construction moratorium bill

WAILUKU >> Maui’s mayor has vetoed a bill that would have imposed a moratorium on hotel construction in parts of the Valley Isle, saying the measure wouldn’t be effective and was legally flawed.

Mayor Michael Victorino said the bill won’t relieve crowds at Kahului Airport, reduce traffic on roads and solve illegal transient vacation rental woes, The Maui News reported.

“While the mayor appreciates the council’s intent and sentiment behind Bill 60, he believes it is more important for legislation to be effective and legal than for it to be fast,” county Managing Director Sandy Baz said during Tuesday afternoon’s news conference when the veto was announced.

The mayor contended the measure didn’t go through “proper reviews” required by the Maui County Charter, adding that the county’s corporation counsel didn’t sign the bill. Baz said the legal deficiencies would subject it to litigation.

The Maui County Council voted 6-2 on July 2 to approve Bill 60, which would place a moratorium on building permits for hotels and other visitor accommodations in south and west Maui until community plans in each area are updated or two years have passed, whichever is sooner.

Council Member Kelly King, who introduced the bill, said she was “surprised” and “disappointed” in the mayor’s decision.

Members of the community testified in support of the measure to mitigate overtourism, she said, adding the only opponents were industry and union representatives.

The veto comes weeks after Victorino asked airlines to voluntarily reduce the number of seats they fly to Maui to help the island cope as travel surges in the wake of last year’s COVID-19 pandemic freeze. Airlines haven’t heeded his call.

“Emergency situations call for quick action,” King said. “It’s really disappointing that the mayor has called for a pause in tourism. … He wants less tourists to come here, but he wants more places for them to stay.”

She said the bill was was modeled after moratorium legislation from other municipalities that has withstood legal challenges.

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