Investors plan mega changes in Lahaina
LAHAINA – Inspired by the committee studying whether the County of Maui should have a county manager to run things instead of the mayor, a group of wealthy Lahaina residents (who made fortunes on the Mainland) are backing a move to make Lahaina a separate city, this column has learned exclusively.
Key backers of the plan pointed out that Lahaina has suffered for years by being neglected by the Wailuku-based county. “There is no reason we cannot do better and at last make Lahaina a town that works to the highest standard,” stated the head of the group, who prefers to remain anonymous.
Lahaina would get a new $200 million city hall to be built on the site of the old Chart House Restaurant, which would thankfully be acquired and torn down. The community eyesore is now the first thing you see on the Front Street entrance road to Lahaina Town proper after leaving Kaanapali. “This will be the people’s building,” a multimillionaire close to the project said.
Members of the new City Council will have to be content with chambers facing mauka along Honoapiilani Highway, while citizens will enjoy using a new community center with a glass atrium and grand restaurant with beautiful ocean views just a few feet away.
The council will be made up of seven members (restricted to four-year terms) who will represent Lahaina proper (two), Launiupoko, Kaanapali, Honokowai and Napili/Kapalua. Olowalu (outside city limits) would continue to be part of the county.
“One of the first things we would do almost immediately would be to build sidewalks with curbs throughout Lahaina Town. We would also build a three-story parking facility on a vacant lot on Lahainaluna Road with a facade compatible with the historic character of the town,” another millionaire said.
An important city service would be recycling and trash removal. The city would operate its own municipal garbage fleet and pick up common recyclables that would be separated by type.
The city would acquire 14 acres of land mauka and makai of the restored Pioneer Mill Smokestack and replace the ugly recycling station that fronts the highway at Lahainaluna Road. Visitors entering town would look out on a new municipal park covering what is now an unsightly area leased out as a staging area for buses and trucks.
An excellent museum now located at the Old Lahaina Courthouse would be expanded and housed in a new structure adjacent to Moku’ula (with good parking) that would become a prime tourist destination. Three-fourths of the facility – to be named King and Queen’s Center – would be devoted to cultural displays and programs with emphasis on the historic role our town played in the evolution of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The remainder would be devoted to the town’s whaling and plantation traditions.
Affordable housing would not be neglected either. Through tax incentives and heavy subsidies, the town would create an apartment park similar to an office park. Building free-standing homes that are supposed to be affordable – but cost $400,000 each – makes no sense, according to one source.
Instead, “We will build a large number of two- or three-story, four- or six-plexes that will put workers in two- to three-bedroom apartments to be sold for about $200,000,” a millionaire stated.
Through rigid zoning, Front Street would be transformed into a quaint village supervised by a historic preservation officer, who would enforce neglected building codes and requirements that buildings not be painted in garish colors. Rent controls would be instituted. Building owners would be required to set strict standards for tenants to eliminate shops selling cheap souvenirs not made in Hawaii.
In a surprising admission, the group claims that it has what it takes to overcome the State Constitution that set up county governments. “We plan to spend a lot of money lobbying legislators to make the change. ‘Money talks,’ ” the treasurer of the group said.
First evidence of the plan will occur the first of the new month with a large banner above Front Street that will proclaim: “Happy April Fools’ Day from Lahaina News.”
Columnist’s Notebook: Sad to say it is no April Fools joke that Jim Killett’s Lahaina Galleries will permanently close its doors on Front Street at the end of April; see the next column for more.