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County appoints Community Plan Advisory Committee

By Staff | May 2, 2019

WEST MAUI – “We are West Maui” is the tag for the County of Maui Long-Range Planning Department’s endeavors to update the West Maui Community Plan in five phases beginning in 2017.

“Each phase,” the wearewestmaui.org website reads, “includes a community engagement component.”

The purpose of phase one, “Research,” was “to identify current conditions, issues and opportunities to define the major topics of the plan.”

The second stage of the process, a series of West Side workshops held over the past two years, was recently completed.

The next step is Community Plan Advisory Committee Meetings, anticipated to commence this summer.

“We are reviewing,” a county e-mail to the Lahaina News advised, “all community input we’ve received from the recent open house and other events. Based on the input, we are working to complete the first draft of the updated West Maui Community Plan. This first draft plan will be delivered to the West Maui Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) to begin their review period.”

To this end, a 13-member CPAC was appointed – four by the mayor and nine by the Maui County Council.

Theirs is an arduous task.

County Code writes CPAC responsibilities in shall mode language, including at least seven workshops to allow public participation; and, according to the Planning Department, there could be as many as 25 three-hour meetings.

The CPAC has 180 days to forward its recommended revisions to the proposed county draft plan to the planning director. The panel will serve until the updated West Maui Community Plan is adopted by the Maui County Council.

The goal of county officials in the CPAC selection process was to seek diversity, balance of age, gender, background, profession, heritage and experience.

Appointees must reside in West Maui in the community plan area from Ukumehame to Honokohau.

The nine CPAC members appointed by the County Council are Joseph Aquino, Ravi Bugga, Yvette Joyce Celiz, Karen Comcowich, Donald Robert Gerbig, Dawn Hegger-Nordblom, Kai Nishiki, Joseph D. Pluta and Leilani Reyes Pulmano.

Jeri Dean, Aina Kohler, Hans Michel and Dylan Payne were selected by Mayor Alan Arakawa last year and confirmed by Mayor Michael Victorino in 2019.

These are significantly important people, making planning vision decisions on the future of West Maui. As such, in a series of articles, the Lahaina News will introduce them, starting with the mayoral appointees.

Born and raised in Lahaina, Jeri Dean has deep roots in our community.

Her daily connection is with our children. She is currently the vice principal at Lahainaluna High School; and, for 22 years, served as an educator at Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School.

She is resolved in her approach to the planning process.

“As a lifetime resident, it is my intention to provide insight to the challenges and opportunities we currently face in the community,” she said.

“Additionally, I hope to promote communication while ensuring citizen input is solicited throughout the process.”

Aina Kolher is a West Side dynamo. The 37-year-old is a small business owner (LahAina Surf Shack located in downtown Lahaina). Stationed on Lanai, she is one of three women firefighters for the County of Maui. The mother of seven-year-old twins, Aina is married to Jonathan Varona, a fellow firefighter stationed on Molokai.

Kohler was born in Tahiti and raised in West Maui. After high school, the Lahainaluna High School graduate (Class of ’98) left to attend college, travel and pursue an international career in professional basketball.

Kohler is proud of her qualifications and inherent values.

“I have integrity, am a hard worker, problem solver, creative thinker and work well with others. As a representative for community interests, the ability to listen and show empathy towards various causes and needs are extremely important. I know that I have these abilities, am willing to fight for what is right and facilitate communication between opposing sides using creative solutions,” she said.

Kohler is committed.

“Through the Community Planning and Advisory Committee, I look forward to being a part of the decisions that involve planning and development of West Maui, putting the best interests of the community and its people first. Listening, communication and valuing our aina will ensure Lahaina has a solid future for our keiki.”

Dylan Payne is another Lahainaluna High School graduate (Class of 2003). He attended Brigham Young University in Utah, earning a degree in Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning.

A real estate agent for West Maui Land, Payne has called the West Side his home the past 20 years.

“I want to make sure my kids are able to benefit from the same experiences I had growing up here. I’d also like for them to have the option to stay here to raise their families if that’s what they choose to do. In order for that to be an option, we need to ensure that there are affordable places for local people to live,” the father of three added.

Rounding out the list of mayoral appointees – last, but not least – is Hans Michel, a regular attendee at community meetings the past 50 years.

When he moved to the Lahaina 56 years ago, he worked for Pioneer Mill and Kaanapali Coffee until he reached 70. Michel said, ” ‘nuf – I work for me. I am a goat farmer now.”

He lives in Kanaha Valley above Lahainaluna High School.

Michel has experience serving on planning committees, including Kaanapali 2020 and the Maui General Plan Advisory Committee.

“Alan (Arakawa) and I go way back,” he advised. “He knows I am a fair man.”

Michel is mostly quiet about his goals.

“The 13 people are supposed to make our own mind what we like to see done, correct? That is the reason why we are there,” he concluded.