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  • Writer's pictureSpring Lee

Updated County of Maui Laws Regarding Accessory Dwellings

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

For those that don’t speak zoning, the term accessory dwellings refers to cottages or attached apartments. Locally, we refer to these structures as ohanas/cottages. With the island feeling the pinch of a housing shortage, the county council recently voted to remove the limit on minimum lot sizes for ohanas/cottages.


The new zoning laws also allow for a second ohanas/cottages unit on certain size lots. The change in laws increased the size limits for ohanas/cottages, and it also allows for larger deck spaces. The last significant change is a prohibition on accessory dwellings for use as a bed and breakfast home, short-term rental home or a transient vacation rental. The intent of all of this legislation is to address the shortage of long term rentals on island.


Accessory Dwellings on Smaller Lots

Before the update, a lot had to be 7,500 square feet or larger to legally have an ohana/cottage. The new rules stipulate that any property may have an accessory dwelling. That said, smaller properties would still need to have sufficient space for off street parking to get a permit for an accessory dwelling.


Two Accessory Dwellings are now Allowed on Lots that are 7,500 Square Feet or Larger.

Lots that are 7,500 square feet or above have always allowed for ohanas/cottages. They are now allowed a second ohana/cottage on the property. As with the smaller lots, the stipulation is that any additional ohana/cottage also has sufficient off street parking.


New Size Limits for Accessory Dwellings

The county has increased the size of the ohana/cottage units allowed on a property. The table below shows the new size limits based on lot size.


It is notable that these numbers are per “ohana” and not the total for the two structures. Covered floor area includes “any covered storage; excludes carports, parking spaces, and garages (including areas therein that contain laundry facilities and utility equipment such as water heaters); and covered walkways or landings up-to four feet wide under eaves or overhangs that are not part of an uncovered open deck, patio, lanai or similar structure.”


Who Doesn’t Want to Have a Bigger Deck?

The changes in accessory dwelling rules also allows for bigger covered and uncovered lanai spaces. The new covered lanai spaces are shown via the table below.


The table above includes the square footage for covered decks, walkways, patios, lanai or similar structures. There are similar allowances for uncovered decks, lanais and patios.


For both of the above tables, “cumulative floor area” excludes walkways or landings up to four feet wide under eaves or overhangs that are not part of a deck, patio, lanai or similar structure.


No More Vacation Renting Accessory Dwellings

The underlying goal of the changes to accessory dwelling laws was to create more housing inventory for local residents. With that in mind, the county established a prohibition on using accessory dwellings as short terms rentals, vacation rentals or as part of a Bed and Breakfast. This is to ensure that the new accessory dwellings don’t become Airbnb rentals.


What’s Not Covered by the Bill

The changes to accessory dwelling laws are limited to properties with the appropriate zoning. One place where there might be some confusion is with properties that are agricultural zoned. While ag zoning allows for “ohanas,” the cottage structures on agricultural lots are considered to be “accessory farm dwellings.” The rules for “Accessory farm dwellings” have not been changed by this bill.


While this bill allows for an increase in density, home owners will find that that parking and water could be a constraint to building out a property to its full capacity. Fixture count will also be a factor for that property owners will need to consider if they want to take advantage of the new law.


Maui County limits the number of plumbing fixtures that can be installed with a standard 5/8ths inch water meter. It is pretty easy to hit fixture limits with a main house and an ohana. Within the last few years, the county started to allow home owners to buy additional fixture points. If someone wants to build a second accessory dwelling, they may need to buy the additional fixture points or even a second water meter. In places like the North Shore and Upcountry, a second water meter is not an option. Let’s hope that water constraints do not undercut the potential of the bill. With Maui in desperate need of more long term rentals, this bill seems like a positive step to generate some much needed rental housing.

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