Maui Real Estate Blog

Maui County Approves Expanded Water Fixture Counts

Maui County has opened the spigot a little more when it comes to water fixtures. It is now allowing property owners to purchase a limited number of additional fixtures units for their water meter. I realize this post may sound like Greek to those who haven’t ever looked into adding bathrooms on to an existing home or adding a new accessory dwelling. with that in mind, I wanted to give a little background on fixture count, why it is an important issue and what the new rules are about.

In the county of Maui, different water fixture counts are applied to different sized water meters. The process can be a little bit confusing. The limitation on water fixtures is not applicable to when a home is first built on a property. However, if you want to expand on that home or build a cottage, you are capped at a certain number of water fixtures based on meter sizes. The most common water meter is a 5/8ths inch meter. The base configuration allows for 31 points worth of water fixtures. Different water fixtures are assigned different points. For example, a water spigot is assigned 3 points, a low flow toilet is assigned 1.7 points while a conventional toilet is assigned 3 points. If an existing structure has fixture totals that are equal to, greater than or even close to 31 points; the county would be unlikely to approve any additions or accessory dwellings that have additional plumbing. For parts of the island where additional water meters are available, the owner of the property would need to have a new water meter installed. That in itself is an expensive and not necessarily a quick process. For areas like Upcountry Maui and parts of the North Shore, that may not be an option. Those parts of the island have a closed waiting list for water meters. It will be many years before the county makes its way through that list.

These policies have been grumbled about by property owners for some time. That said, it first entered the public discourse in the fall of 2015 when the issue was raised in a county council meeting. The county has been looking at addressing some of the island’s housing shortage via infill development. In other words, they were looking at where they could add density by allowing people to build more accessory dwellings. They are even considering lowering the lot size requirements for accessory dwellings. The current fixture count limits were a potential impediment to property owners building more accessory dwellings.

As of July 1, the county has given homeowners a path to raise their fixture counts. Owners can increase their total number of fixture units by paying a fee per each additional fixture unit. There are limits to the number of units each home can purchase. This is the run down on the new fixture count rules by meter size.

Fixture unit costs and allocations are as follows:

  • The standard 5/8 inch water meter currently has 31 fixture units. At a cost of $389 per fixture unit, an additional 8 fixture units may be purchased.
  • A 3/4 inch water meter currently allows for 53 fixture units. You can now by as many as 14 additional fixture units at cost of $356 per fixture unit.
  • A 1 inch water meter allows for up to 128 fixture units. Property owners can now pay to raise their capacity by an additional 32 fixture units at a cost of an additional $261 per fixture units.

These new rules are a positive step in creating some infill development on Maui and at least addressing a portion of the limitations on housing inventory. They also make it easier for people to add a new bathroom if they had previously tapped out their fixtures. Here is a link to a Maui County Plumbing Worksheet to show the full list of values of different plumbing fixtures. Check out the Maui County Department of Water Supply for more information on the county water system. The Engineering department is the group that handles water meters.

Pete Jalbert

Maui Real Estate Blog

State and County Change SMA Thresholds

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.

Pete Jalbert