The General Plan Committee of the Maui County Council voted 8-0 to reject revisions to the directed growth element of the Maui Island Plan offered by Maui County Department of Planning Director Will Spence.
At the start of the Thursday, Feb. 16, meeting where the vote was taken, General Plan Committee Chair Gladys Baisa told her colleagues, "Members, fasten your seat belts," as the committee took their first steps toward the review of directed growth strategies in Chapter 8 of the Maui Island General Plan.
Chapter 8, entitled the "Directed Growth Plan," will set urban and rural growth boundaries for Maui through the year 2030 when adopted by the council. This is the first time Maui County has established growth boundaries, representing a significant shift toward a more orderly and predictable development pattern. It has been referred to as the "backbone of the Maui Island Plan."
Maui County Department of Planning Director Will Spence (left), Councilmember Don Couch and General Plan Committee Chair Gladys Baisa confer before the start of the Feb. 16 meeting of the General Plan Committee.
Baisa might have continued to paraphrase her quote from actress Bette Davis in the 1950 movie "All About Eve," by adding, "It's going to be a bumpy ride."
In the days leading up to the meeting, council members were inundated with emails and telephone calls urging them to abandon consideration of the revised version of the Maui Island Plan submitted on Jan. 25, 2012, by Director Spence, and instead to use the version of the plan that had been developed by the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) after three years of meetings and a review by the Maui County Planning Commission.
Testimony at the meeting strongly supported that viewpoint.
Shelly Madigan, president of the Kula Community Association, testified that the Association " was opposed to several changes now being proposed by Planning Director Will Spence Specifically, we ask your committee to retain greenbelts and greenbelt elements as important planning elements in the directed growth chapter of the Maui Island Plan."
Pam Doust, president of the Ma'alaea Community Association, urged the committee to maintain the use of the agricultural overlay map that was in versions of the plan that had been submitted earlier to the council by previous planning directors.
"That map and the recommendations regarding ag lands were devised after thousands of hours of community input, and GPAC and Planning Commission deliberation," Doust said.
She cautioned that the future may reveal far more profitable and necessary agricultural uses than exist today, and that agricultural lands must be preserved for the next generation and beyond.
Land-use planner Dave Ward cautioned the committee against using wastewater systems as a planning tool. "Using sewer lines is easy for planning, but in the end, it just leads to more development," he testified.
He also raised a concern about only projecting growth based on historical growth rates. "If we continue to grow and allocate (housing) units only in the areas growing today, then Wailuku, Kahului and Kihei will become one," he said.
Mary Traynor of Makawao testified that as an Upcountry resident, her largest concern was the "Planning Director's deletions of the following boundaries to table 8.2: Country Town, Rural Service Center, Rural Residential, Ag Overlay Districts, and Greenbelts and Greenways."
Her opposition was based on her view that such boundaries " articulate where small towns are, and the elimination of them appears to put our small towns at risk for inappropriate development."
After testimony and a short break, the committee reconvened. South Maui Councilmember Don Couch made a motion to begin the review of Chapter 8 from the December 2010 version of the plan, and not what he called "the slimmed-down version" offered by Director Spence.
The motion passed 8-0, with Councilmember Riki Hokama excused.
Commenting later on his motion, Couch said, "I made the motion to base our deliberations on the plan submitted to council (2010 version) verses starting with the planning director's recommendations, because I heard from numerous people--including testifiers--that the director's changes were too extreme."
"I just want people to know that their testimony is heard--whether written or oral--and it is considered when dealing with the issues that we all face in Maui County," Councilmember Couch said.
He added, "Because this is the first time that any council has looked at Chapter 8, I will suggest looking for information in the GPAC and Planning Commission recommendations as well."
GPAC member Stacie Thorlakson agreed that the committee's action had set a baseline for future discussions. "It is important to recognize the three-year effort of the GPAC's volunteer members and the subsequent review of those recommendation by the Planning Commission," she said in an interview after the meeting. "Today's action by the committee has done that and I commend them for it."
"The theme of this story should be the council listens to public input," said Baisa. "We do care and we do listen. Look at what we did today."
"People have put so much time and so much effort into this plan, and out of respect for that, I can see us working from that document," she added.
For more information, including future meetings of the Maui County Council's General Plan Committee, visit www.mauicounty.gov/committees/GP.