Community sends strong message at Kaanapali Golf Course Revitalization meeting
The meeting at Lahaina Intermediate School (LIS) hosted by the West Maui Community Association last week Monday (Nov. 6) was landmark. It was an assembly of 348 like-minded people, raising their voices in concert against the ERS Kaanapali Golf Course Revitalization.
The school cafeteria was overflowing with families – aunties and uncles, moms and dads, tutus and keiki. In the diverse mix, there was also the contingent representing the Kaanapali associations, resorts, management and homeowners. Other frustrated Maui residents were present as well – fed up with yet another proposed development that will stifle, if not smother, the quality of our life.
The proceedings were live streamed on Facebook (Kai Nishiki’s page); and, as of deadline, there were over 1,600 views.
Tamara Paltin was the meeting facilitator; respect was the order of the day.
The WMCA selected a representative three-member panel to answer pressing questions West Siders had about the development.
Facing the crowd were Mike Munekiyo (Munekiyo Hiraga, president), planning consultants; Thomas Williams (ERS, executive director), landowner; and Ted R. Lennon, (Lowe Enterprises, senior vice president), project manager.
The community was a tough audience. Standing in line, one after another, testifiers challenged the panelists with difficult questions, potent testimony, harsh words and opposing arguments.
Munekiyo’s approach was matter-of-fact: we’re about the process, he said several times.
Taking notes, Williams’ answers were well thought out, honest and telling.
When Lennon picked up the microphone, however, his garbled words were met with, “Can’t hear you,” from the audience. It happened so many times, it appeared to be tactical rather than audial.
The audience was responsive when queried en masse.
“Is this development beneficial for anybody in the County of Maui or the West Side?” Keeaumoku Kapu asked. “No,” was the resounding reply.
To cheers, Kekai Keahi shared the spirit in the room: “Everybody is saying no. I am 100 percent no; there is no compromise; this will not be done, no matter what. I don’t even have to look beyond this for you to have to do anymore. This is one of the biggest turnouts I ever seen in Lahaina, maybe forever. All us Hawaiians – all of the people out here – we’re usually on the opposite sides of the table. It’s the first time I walking hand-in-hand with these guys. You came at the wrong time.”
So what did we learn?
The ERS is not easily daunted; Williams was calm, with reasonable answers for every query. He was good.
Regarding our highway infrastructure, he said, “It is very clear that there is a traffic problem. No one is going to deny that. I don’t think that you would assert that the problem results from the project that we’re proposing. I believe that the traffic issues have pre-existed, but we have an obligation to work with you to try to resolve those issues.”
This Williams statement was stunning: “I think that a number of folks support the project for a whole range of different reasons, and we’re trying to find that consensus, that area of common ground, where maybe there is some element of this project that is acceptable and would be beneficial to this community. We may go through the process and learn that there is no such component, but I think this is a start.”
The Lahaina News wondered where he got his facts.
Kaanapali resident Sara Foley voiced the big question of the night: “What would it take to stop this project at this phase, not to go forward with this EIS, traffic study and all that?”
Williams’ answer was roundabout, inconclusive: “In the context of what would it take for the ERS to stop this? That is for you all to determine. I think we owe a responsibility to our constituents – to our members and to this community to at least explore whether there is any opportunity to enhance the value of the property that we own for this community and for our members.”
Clearly, the ERS is not giving up. The approval/permitting process could take up to seven years, Williams said. That means lots and lots and lots of meetings. There is hard work ahead; they will try to wear us down.
Peter deAquino was resolute: “You guys are so short term. In Hawaii, we believe in looking seven generations ahead – not seven years, seven generations.”