State and County Change SMA Thresholds

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This post may be of interest if you are thinking of building or engaging in a significant remodel of a home on or near Maui’s shoreline. The State of Hawaii has a program in place called called Coastal Zone Management (CZM) which attempts to balance the preservation of land and water resources in coastal areas with economic growth. One of the critical elements of the CZM program is the designation of special management areas (SMA) where a combination of county and the state agencies regulate development. Within Maui, SMA areas can extend from a few hundred yards to a few miles from the coastline depending on the location around the island. Construction and development in SMA areas are held to higher standards than regular development with a longer permitting process. Depending on the size and scope of the development going on within the SMA area, you may be subject to an SMA minor permit or an SMA major permit. The difference in the process between the two types of SMA permits can be significant. SMA minor permits have a limited review and require no public hearing. SMA major permits have more extensive reviews and can require a public hearing.

The threshold between SMA minor and major has been based on an estimate of construction costs. In 1991, that number was established at $125,000. Up until today, that number had not changed despite significant changes in construction costs. The state legislature just approved a new threshold of $500,000 in estimated construction costs as the threshold between SMA minor and SMA major. Also of significance, they established a threshold for the size of residences impacted by these rules. According to the county press release, “Homes of less than 7,500 square feet, with a valuation of less than $500,000, will be exempt from SMA permitting requirements altogether. Larger homes, depending on their valuation, will still be required to obtain either SMA minor or major permits.” This should substantially improve the speed of permits for home improvements within these coastal zones.

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