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County Directors on Hot Seat at Kihei Meeting

Kīhei Community Association asks new leaders the tough questions. “Best I can tell you is that I will look into it and get back to you…”

January 27, 2011
Trisha Smith

After just three weeks on the job, Spence and Goode were hit hard with concerns about issues affecting the South Maui community, including the recent flood-related damages, long-term planning and the lingering construction of North/South Collector Road.

“When you first invited me to attend this meeting, you asked me to cover traffic and bypass projects—then it rained,” Goode said lightheartedly.

Goode is no stranger to the “hot seat,” serving as both the director and deputy director of Public Works during the administrations of both Linda Lingle and James “Kimo” Apana. He’s also a member of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Article Photos

Maui County Planning Director Will Spence (left) and Public Works Director David Goode were faced with a variety of issues affecting Kīhei residents during the Kīhei Community Association’s Jan. 18 meeting.

Goode said he understands Kīhei residents’ frustrations about flooding, but hopes the public realizes they’re dealing with issues from a worn drainage system from the ’80s, among other difficulties. One longtime resident spoke of the historic challenges working against the areas, such as deforestation, industrial farming and cattle ranching Upcountry, which Goode agreed makes it “extremely difficult” to predict or control the immense amount of excess water heading downhill. “We’re dealing with concrete scattered with wetlands… it’s challenging,” he said.

Goode responded to concerns of Kūlanihāko‘i Gulch—the 100-year flood zone located off Ka‘ono‘ulu Street, which was at the epicenter of the recent deluge. “There’s just too much water coming down so quickly, and no way to control it,” he said.

He estimated 14,000 cubic feet per second passes through the gulch during extreme downpours, which means it is possible that 378 million gallons an hour can rush through the area.

Goode mentioned that the state transportation improvement plan (STIP) has allocated approximately $4 million in federal highway funds to construct a bridge-type facility on South Kīhei Road for Kūlanihāko‘i Gulch. “Still, it will probably never be a flood-free zone,” he said.

The county is about a quarter of the way through reassessment of Kīhei’s master drainage plan, which will identify drainage facility improvements that will alleviate extreme overflow in Kīhei, but “there is likely no way to eliminate flooding in some areas, but we should be able to mitigate flooding,” said Goode.

Timing of the improvements is dependent on the appropriation of funding, but the minimum estimation is 15 years.

Goode said it was “extremely helpful” that several community members—including South Maui County Councilman Don Couch—posted video and photos on online networks during the torrential storms. Goode passed the information on to his engineers to give them a better understanding of the problems.

If anything, said Goode, they would like to have quicker access to reports about flooding. “Oftentimes flooding occurs during non-work hours,” said Goode. “With radar showing heavy rain Upcountry, we could respond better if given notice.”

He said that with thunderstorms in particular, the precise locations “are not very well predicted,” although radar does pick them up when they occur. “We will work on this with the appropriate authorities,” he said.

After working on smaller, domestic planning, rather than large-scale, contentious developments, Spence provides a fresh approach to the Maui County Planning Department. Spence previously worked as a private planning consultant and a senior staff planner for the county from 1992 to 2002, and said he is up for the tasks ahead. But he’s already facing some challenges, trying to “quickly learn everything,” and has been working vigorously to catch up on Kīhei projects.

Spence said “traffic issues stemmed from past planning,” and that they won’t be proposing “any roads like South Kīhei.” Goode added that with “civil engineering nightmares” like Pi‘ilani Highway, future long-term roadway projects will include the “proper base course” to deal with heavy traffic and climate complications.

Spence inherits the tedious task of overseeing the Maui Island Plan and updating General Plan 2030. He foresees the need for modifications and strives to make the “language” of the documents more clear. He wants to eliminate the “How do you interpret these plans?” dialogue between county personnel.

Recalling past efforts, Miller said that previous countywide plans were written one way, yet executed another, and that he’s very concerned about repeatedly seeing similar projects proposed and developed independently.

Miller complained about the lack of connectivity of neighborhoods, with Spence agreeing that there were mismatches between past plans and what was actually built.

“The old plans were treated more like guidelines,” Spence said. “Maybe in the future, plans will be treated as law, yet that can also be problematic when planning so far in advance…”

Miller relayed how KCA hoped to obtain more information on new projects and special zoning areas that would affect South Maui neighborhoods and traffic, and provide useful community input before the final ink dried, referring to some large retail centers slated for mauka-side of the Pi‘ilani Highway. (See next week’s Maui Weekly for more details.)

Spence suggested the public petition the Planning Commission to change zoning. “You have a really good County Council now—bring these issues up,” he said.

When answering the audience and Miller’s queries, Spence reiterated that he hadn’t seen Kīhei’s proposals, or even the MIP. “Best I can tell you is that I will look into it and get back to you… ,” Spence repeated when responding to certain projects.

When KCA’s Miller inquired if the prolonged N/S Collector Road was to be finished “in this decade,” Goode admitted he “didn’t have an answer for him—yet.”

He said the department will see what federal funds are available. “Personally, I’m all for it,” said Goode. “I’ve always seen it as the residents’ road, connecting neighbors, schools and local stores.”

Goode assured at least the first portion of the area’s bikeway is currently under construction, a stretch that he believes runs from Waipu‘ilani Street to Kīhei Elementary School. The department hopes to have the project done by the summer.

“I want to come back here in June and go for a bike ride,” said Goode.

KCA’s next monthly meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and will feature representatives from the Department of Parks & Recreation and Environmental Management.

KCA plans to have meetings available on Akaku: Maui Community Television.

“We’re going through a transformation right now at KCA in efforts to extend our attempt to use more modern forms of communication,” said Miller.



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