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Elementary school should be built concurrently with Pulelehua

By Staff | Nov 17, 2016

Finding a location for a third elementary school on the West Side has been somewhat like playing “pin the tail on the donkey.”

Over 30 years ago, in the 1983 Lahaina Community Plan, an elementary school was designated in the then-Project District 2-Napilihau Mauka, a proposed extension of Napilihau to meet immediate and medium term growth needs. Sites, the plan recommended, should be reserved for residential use, community-oriented park and a future elementary school.

Times changed, and so did the will of Maui Land and Pine.

During the drafting of the now-West Maui Community Plan in the early 1990s, MLP told the 13-member Lahaina Citizen’s Advisory Committee (LCAC) that a school, park and residential community could not possibly be built in an area where toxic materials had been stored in and around their pineapple baseyard; it wasn’t a safe environment.

The LCAC agreed, and Project District 2 was relocated north and renamed Kapalua-Mauka. It was no longer considered a residential extension of Napilihau; it was re-classified into a 450-acre resort with a mix of the following uses: golf course, open space and roadways, 261 acres; commercial, five acres; residential, 144 acres; and parks, open space and buffer zones, 34 acres.

During the community planning process, locals testified about the need for an elementary school for families in Napili, Kahana, Mahinahina and Honokowai, and the concept of a third elementary school to alleviate overcrowding conditions joined the move to the Kapalua-Mauka Project District 2 as part of the package.

Few believed, however, that a public school would ever be built in a resort neighborhood, especially in Kapalua, and the idea went underground until it resurfaced on the MLP drawing board about ten years later as part of the future 300-plus-acre holistic community, Pulelehua.

Pulelehua was approved after undergoing an intensive charrette planning process, where citizens, designers and other stakeholders participated in the development of a common vision, including a 13-acre elementary school, as part of the conditions of zoning for the development.

Flash-forward to June 2016: a Mainland developer purchases Pulelehua and its entitlements.

Last week, Paul Cheng, CEO and president of USA Infrastructure Investments LP, presented plans to the community for the first phase of the development.

He assured attendees that his firm is here for the long term; but, when pressed, he hedged about condition number six: i.e., pursuing “alternatives with the DOE for the design and construction of the elementary school in Pulelehua.”

The genuineness of Mr. Cheng’s staying power on the West Side is questionable with his response: “I don’t have anything to do with the school. I gave them the land; they have plans for it. The state controls it. When they decide to do it, they will do it.”

The Lahaina News thinks the school should be built concurrently with the development. We care about the long term; they are our kids.