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Planning Commission takes testimony on projected growth in West Maui

By Staff | Aug 13, 2009

LAHAINA — Two proposals for mapping projected growth in West Maui in the county’s general plan were presented to the Maui Planning Commission last week Tuesday at Lahaina Civic Center from 1:30 to 8 p.m. More than 200 people attended, and 70 signed up to give testimony.

One proposal was from the 25-member General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), and the other from the Maui County Planning Department. Each proposal offered a different version of areas of growth for the Maui Island Plan 2030. These two proposals are in addition to the thousands of units already approved and waiting to be built.

GPAC recommended approximately 700 new housing units for Pulelehua at Mahinahina; 1,800 units for Kaanapali 2020; 1,100 units near Lahaina, including the Wainee Village project and Villages of Leiali‘i Phase II; and 1,500 units for Olowalu Town. In addition, the plan includes 800 units for Makila near the south end of Lahaina Town, bringing the total to approximately 6,000 new units.

In contrast, the Planning Department recommends 5,000 units for West Maui by reducing the total at Olowalu.

GPAC members voted 13 to 12 to chart 1,500 units at the proposed Olowalu Town project. 

Maui resident Van Fischer received loud applause and cheers when he stated, “The development at Olowalu should be kept in agriculture, and if they cannot farm it, give it to those who can.”

He added to “not allow traffic lights on Honoapiilani Highway at Olowalu; it will create a bottleneck of traffic like what is occurring at Launiupoko.”

Randy Ragon, president of the Olowalu Mauka Homeowners Association, opposes Olowalu Town due to the “existing drainage issues that cause irreparable damage to the reef,” and the “potential damage to numerous archeological sites.”

Ragon said the developers have allowed the area to go “drastically downhill,” and it is no longer a safe place to live.

In contrast, Katherine Kama‘ema‘e Smith, historical novelist, hopes Olowalu Town will bring upland reforestation, storm water and water conservation schemes that will preserve Olowalu waters.

West Maui homeowner Liz O’Reilly offered two policy recommendations:

1) Require developers to build the rental units first. Affordable rentals are needed for transient hotel, restaurant and retail store workers. In addition, there are people who want to sell their homes, and glutting the market with new homes will not help those who have homes to sell.

2) Since driving to work in West Maui from Central Maui and Kihei is a major issue, require the county economic development groups to establish more jobs in those areas. People will not need to relocate to West Maui, and fewer housing units will be needed, she argued.

Doug McClure, Maui County Farm Bureau board member, reported that 80 percent of Maui’s food comes from the Mainland.

“Maui needs good agriculture land and affordable water to be sustainable. Imported food brings in invasive plants and insects,” he told the commission.

John Carty spoke on behalf of the Save Honolua Coalition  to stop development at the north end of Kaanapali. He also asked to prevent mid- to large-scale subdividing of agricultural lands by “strengthening applicable zoning and subdivision/condominium property regime ordinances.” 

He recommended prohibiting developing or subdividing prime, productive or important agricultural lands, shoreline areas, view corridors, greenways and environmentally or culturally sensitive areas for residential uses, in which the residence would be the primary use and any agricultural activities would be secondary uses.

Dr. George Lavenson remarked, “We have already had a great deal of growth in West Maui, and it has not been incremental but rather excremental. All one has to do is drive along Honoapiilani Highway with the windows of the car down to appreciate that the excremental growth has exceeded the infrastructure to deal with it.”

Gordon C. Cockett emphasized the need for “affordable homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range that last forever and are not put into vacation rentals after five years.”

Ed Thompson of the American Resort Development Association described the local timeshare industry as “valuable contributors to Maui’s economy.” He asked that a statement in the general plan, “Discourage timeshares and fractional ownership,” be removed.

Ann Baran, representing Maui Schooner Resort, also asked that the “negative statements directed towards the timeshare industry be removed.”

Written testimony (20 copies) on the proposed land use plan can be mailed to the Planning Commission until Sept. 1 at 250 South High St., Room 200, Wailuku, HI 96793, or send one e-mail with your testimony to generalplan2030@mauicounty.gov.

The Planning Commission’s next meeting on the Maui Island Plan Review will be Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 9 a.m. in the Planning Conference Room at 250 South High St. in Wailuku.