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Big changes for West Maui?

By Staff | Feb 18, 2016

LAHAINA – Another big change for Maui beyond the end of sugar may be in the offing. Three reliable county officials have said rumors are afloat that Kaanapali Land Management Corp. is considering selling its vast West Maui holdings that stretch from the old Pioneer Mill Smokestack all the way to Kaanapali Coffee Farms.

The sources said developer Peter Martin and his investing associates are interested. They already control 4,500 acres in West Maui, including the Launiupoko housing/agricultural development. Martin wants to expand the Launiupoko area in the next few years.

Calls to Kaanapali Land for comment were not returned. JMB Realty, the Chicago-based real estate investment firm that acquired its Kaanapali lands from the old Amfac company, refused comment.

“I have no comment one way or the other,” an official replied by phone to a question from Lahaina News about the possible sale. The local office also did not return phone calls made over several weeks.

JMB Realty has apparently put its focus elsewhere. Its website mentions big development projects in Chicago and Pittsburgh but nary a word about Kaanapali, even though its holdings make up thousands of acres.

Kaanapali Land has had three master-planned communities under consideration in West Maui for a number of years but has not broken ground. A community committee has also been advising the land company for many years. The committee has been around for so long that several of its members have passed away.

The company’s projects over the last decade or more include development of Kaanapali Coffee Farms and providing land for a future West Maui Hospital.

Developer Martin and Makila Land Co. LLC keep a low profile, including only a few lines describing its activities on its website.

Implications of a change in ownership are huge. Would new owners focus mostly on affordable housing – to build hundreds of units for workers who regularly commute to West Maui – or will they cover the mountain mostly with luxury homes?

This columnist has long advocated drawing a “green line” at the level of the Lahaina Bypass and banning development above it.

Doubtless a sale could mean big changes for West Maui.

MORE FISH: Great news for locals and visitors! Paia Fish Market, which serves the best fish sandwich on Maui, is coming to Lahaina. If permits are completed, the restaurant expects to open this spring at the old Burger King location across from the Banyan Tree. You heard it here first.

These days, in the columnist’s view, Cool Cat Cafe serves the best fresh fish sandwich locally. Fishermen regulary walk in straight off the boat from the harbor. This is a recent discovery, since Cool Cat’s claim to fame is the beef burger (sometimes named the best on the island). Next spring, the best fish sandwich in Lahaina may be a close race, and we will all be better for it.

TWO MILESTONES: Congratulations to Jim and Nancy Killett, who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Lahaina Galleries. Jim almost bought an ice cream parlor years ago instead of the gallery. But he called up his wife one day to say: “We just bought an art gallery.” From one artist represented, the galleries now represent many, including quite a few who began creating art in other countries.

Meanwhile, the Maui Marriott is celebrating its 35th anniversary here on Maui. It merits a big salute because of its aloha. It is a pleasure to walk through the Marriott to the new Starbucks there each morning from beach parking to be greeted every time by every cleaning person and worker you encounter with a smile and a single word: “Aloha.” Sometimes a “good morning” is added. This makes everyone – visitor or local – feel welcome.