Still reeling from its inability to as yet influence or stop the planned Pi'ilani Promenade/Outlet Mall project mauka of Pi'ilani Highway, the Kihei Community Association (KCA) intends to get out in front of additional developments in Kihei that may be on the drawing board.
The association's meeting on Tuesday, May 15, at the Kihei Charter School campus was supposed to do just that.
The meeting was promoted as an opportunity to "Learn About Projected Development Before It's Approved." Maui County Planning Department Director Will Spence and Long Range Planner David Yamashita were to join state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) District Land Agent Daniel Ornellas to explain what's planned for the area on both sides of Mokulele Highway from South Pu'unene to the Kihei Gateway Plaza area.
Maui County Department of Planning Long Range Division Planning Supervisor David Yamashita presented this master plan concept for the Maui Raceway Park area to the Kihei Community Association on Tuesday, May 15. Yamashita noted that it was not final, but wanted the community to be aware of the Planning Department’s thoughts at this point.
But, it never happened.
Instead, only the Maui County planners showed up to give a presentation on the Pu'unene Motorsports Park Draft Master Plan Concept for upgrades and improvements to the existing Maui Raceway Park, the motorsports venue that now exists in the general area of the Hawai'i Army National Guard base that occupies a portion of the old Maui Airport (Pu'unene Airport) along Mokulele Highway.
The audience acknowledged their plans with general approval.
Patti Domingo of Kihei told the planners, "If the master plan is put into place, that would be great. My family is a family of racers. People would come over from the other islands, and that would be good for Maui."
The only concern was one reported by Planning Director Spence, who said the state might be concerned about the effects of noise on the prisoners--if a new prison is ever built in the area.
However, Spence noted, "The race activities were there first."
It wasn't until the presentation was completed and a panel convened, comprised of KCA President Jon Miller, Yamashita and Spence, that the larger purpose of the meeting that had attracted the overflow crowd of more than 85 attendees began to emerge.
Miller opened the panel by telling Spence, "The elephant in the room is that we are not talking about the land on the other side of Mokulele Highway--the commercial development. Massive development is planned on the other side of the highway (across from the motorsports park).
"What can we as a community do to influence this?" Miller asked.
The issue is complicated because the land in question is controlled by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) with jurisdictional issues involving the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
"Looking on the other side of Mokulele Highway, right now it is being advertised--quietly advertised--as light industrial and some commercial," Spence responded.
Miller, like a boxer looking for an opening, pressed his point. "We see an enormous project--what can we do to have a voice in the development?" he asked again.
Spence, trying to answer for those who had confirmed their attendance and then later made a decision not to come to the meeting, replied, "I think that if they knew the community sentiment, they would do something that would fit in. I can assure you they are not interested in creating blight on the county, by any means."
Weaving back and forth as if to avoid a knockout punch, Spence pointed out that he was not speaking for any potential developers, but giving his personal opinion based on their working relationship with the Planning Department.
Again, Miller pressed in. "Then the community and the county do not have any real official say in what happens?"
"That's right," Spence responded tersely. But, he added, "I don't want to leave the impression that one day you're going to wake up and see bulldozers on the property."
Miller continued his aggressive line of questioning. "We have heard rumors of a 'Mall of the Pacific' on the site, and we have no legal standing. Is that right?"
"That's true," a beleaguered Spence answered. "But DHHL has been working with the county and we are working with them.
"We cannot speak for what DNLR and DHHL will do," Spence quickly added. We can only speak for the county."
And then it was over, leaving, perhaps, a wiser and even more determined community association--one that now knows it has a bigger mountain to climb to influence developments than it may have realized just a few short months ago.
For more information about the Kihei Community Association, visit www.GoKihei.org.
Next month's KCA meeting is on Tuesday, June 19, at the same location on Lipoa Street at 6:30 p.m. The topic--again--the Pi'ilani Promenade/Outlet Mall mauka of Pi'ilani Highway.