Overturning Mayor’s Veto, Maui County Council Enforces Two-Year Moratorium on Hotels Construction

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This week the Maui County Council voted to overturn Mayor Mike Victorino’s veto of a bill that would halt all new hotel construction for the next two years. Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who introduced the bill, said that this isn’t intended to stop tourists from coming to the island; they only want to give the county more time to figure out how to accommodate the increasing number of tourists, as well as find more available low-income housing for Maui residents.

Some hotels agree with the moratorium. “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.

While some, including the mayor, fear inroads to the island’s construction industry, Rawlins-Fernandez disagrees. “During this moratorium, labor unions that rely on work from new hotel and resort construction will still be able to do renovation work that does not increase the number of units,” Rawlins-Fernandez explained. “And will be able to complete work on projects that received its final discretionary permits.”

The mayor recognizes the need to stop over-tourism but wants a solution other than the moratorium. “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.

As a third alternative, the council’s investigative group poses ending the moratorium early; they plan to submit a final report next month.

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