“It’s a small enough community that we can make a difference, and be successful in our efforts to really protect the lands, oceans and neighborhoods we truly care about,” she said. “I have a fresh perspective being a new resident—I’m not jaded nor deflated, and I’m willing to fight for what’s right.”
After reading a news series in the Maui Weekly revealing plans to build shopping centers in Kīhei, Keele said she was in “awe, shock” of the “horror” of large California companies such as Eclipse Development Group working under the radar to “create a gigantic Mainland shopping center with big-box chain superstores” near the future high school mauka side of the Pi‘ilani Highway, along a future extension of Kaono‘ulu Avenue.
Keele has created a movement on her own, a call-for-action of sorts, with grassroots campaign AinaOhanaFirst to compel others to support “thoughtful, creative, responsible and sustainable development in South Maui that puts the needs of the ‘āina and ‘ohana first.” (Visit eclipsedevelopmentgroup.com/CS_maui.htm to view plans for retail complexes such as “Pi‘ilani Promenade” upon roughly 68 acres of developable land. It is in the pre-development phase, pre-leasing 1,000- to 160,000-square-foot spaces, with a projected grand opening in early 2014.)
Road to nowhere. The partial extension of Kaono‘ulu Avenue in Kīhei is part of a set of proposed projects that plan to develop retail centers upon over 70 acres of former ranch lands mauka of Pi‘ilani Highway. Celeste Keele and other concerned residents who do not support these projects are working diligently as the grassroots campaign AinaOhanaFirst. “We don’t need these developments at all,” she said. “And, we’re not willing to give up without a fight.”
“I was especially upset with comments made by the CEO regarding not getting community input and his confidence that we’ll like it,” said Keele. (See Keele’s letter “Weigh in on Kīhei’s future,” on page 4.) “We want what happens to this land to be decided by the people who live here and love it, who depend on it and take care of it, and not by outsiders whose sole motivation is profit for themselves.”
Keele created this group with “gracious help” from many others, including educators like Dick Mayer, to be a call to residents to “let our leaders know that we want a voice in development that we want to preserve the Maui-ness of Maui.”
“This means so much to me, and I know others agree,” she said. “We still have a choice… I saw Utah get covered with development and lose much of its environmental essence—I don’t want to see the same here.”
The Website ainaohanafirst.community.officelive.com is filled with a variety of useful links and information to get you started on your own movement. A petition Keele intends to deliver to Maui County personnel is also available on the Website.
Download the “Kīhei Retail Development Survey 2011” to become part of an effort to collect and inform Maui residents about these retail projects, and what can be done to preserve South Maui. Also visit AinaOhanaFirst’s Facebook page.
“I’m hoping the community and small businesses take it upon themselves to spread the word and hand out the surveys,” said Keele, who has collected nearly 150 already on her own.
Keele suggests residents and visitors write letters to local papers and community representatives to let them know just where they stand on these contentious projects.
“Let’s get a buzz going—and then a storm—to let them know that this isn’t going to fly without our voices being heard,” said Keele. “I’m putting so much fire in this—I just need some friends with logs to really ignite something.”