The good news is a Monday, Aug. 27, meeting hosted by Sen. Roz Baker to discuss long-range planning for land between Kihei and Kahului brought state and county officials together face to face with over 70 residents of Maui County at the Kihei Community Center. The focus of the two-hour meeting was the plans for over 900 acres on both sides of the Mokulele Highway known as Pulehunui.
Other lawmakers present were Rep. Angus McKelvey, Rep. Joe Souki, Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran and South Maui County Councilmember Don Couch.
The event featured five of the state's cabinet-level public officials--Jesse Souki, director of the Office of Planning; William Aila Jr., director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources; Ted Sakai, director of the Department of Public Safety; Jobie Masagatani, director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; and Dean Seki, director of the Department of Accounting and General Services. Also present was Maui County Planning Director Will Spence.
The map above shows the Pulehunui Master Plan area, envisioned by the state as a 20-year, three-phase, mixed-use, build-out of over 900 acres on both sides of the Mokulele Highway between Kahului and Kihei. Approximately 70 Maui residents attended a meeting on Monday, Aug. 27, hosted by Sen. Roz Baker, who invited state officials to discuss long-range planning of the area commonly known as Pu‘unene.
All were there to lay out what the state hopes will be a coordinated, 20-year, three-phase, mixed-use, build-out of the Pulehuni ahupua'a--a geographic region more commonly known as Pu'unene.
The area is envisioned as an "urban node" surrounded by agricultural lands.
It already contains the National Guard Armory, a baseyard and remnant portions of improvements made by the U.S. military during World War II that are presently used as a drag racing strip. A much-discussed new prison--yet to be sited, funded or built--is also slated for the area.
Speaking in turn, each state official described how their department proposed to use various portions of the area. They all stressed the intent to conduct the planning in a mutually cooperative manner. Many mentions were also made of increasing the tax base and generating new revenues, although no specific examples were given on the amount or kind of revenues that might be derived.
The bad news is all of those who spoke greeted the proposal with skepticism bordering on outright hostility.
Or as Julian Gayton of Kihei commented, "This affects a lot more than just this."
Act 55 - Public Lands Development Corporation
Apprehension was especially apparent in information presented by Upcountry resident Hugh Starr, who had attended an earlier state-sponsored public meeting on Friday, Aug. 24, regarding Act 55.
Act 55 is a new law passed in the 2011 session of the state Legislature that created the Public Lands Development Corporation. The act gave the PLDC unprecedented powers, including blanket exemptions from all zoning, planning and permitting steps normally required. It also virtually eliminated any public review for projects that fall within its scope.
Starr reported that as Hawai'i citizens learned of the PLDC and its powers, they reacted with outrage and an immediate call for repeal.
Starr said that public officials who recently traveled around the state to hear comments were met by defiance at all of the public meetings held so far. He cited the reaction of the people in Hilo as but one example of public reaction. A dramatic 14-minute video can be seen at www.bigislandvideonews.com/2012/08/22/video-hawaiis-new-public-land-development-corp-rejected.
Starr questioned whether the public officials present in Kihei were only going through the motions of presenting the Pulehunui plan for public scrutiny. He and others who spoke suggested that the real agenda was to take, use and develop the public lands and circumvent all the normal oversight procedures.
Though the state officials repeatedly said this was not their intent, they did acknowledge that, under the new law, it would indeed be possible.
Others, like Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele, pointed out that the Maui Island Plan process has been underway for a long time. He thought that the state was coming in late and only showing up at all because protests from the community had been lodged.
Kanahele also noted that the area requested for state development was much larger than the size that had been tentatively allotted in the version of the plan now working its way through the Maui County Council. (See maps on page two.)
Others at the meeting spoke to the same point and wondered aloud if many of the proposed uses were compatible or even desirable.
The topic of the prison evoked an equally venomous reaction.
Carrie Ann Shirota of the Community Alliance on Prisons insisted on a straight answer from DAGS Director Seki. How much, she asked, had been spent so far on planning an expanded prison capable of housing 600 to 900 inmates?
Seki at first hesitated, but finally estimated that upwards of $13 million has already been expended on planning, although a site has yet to be selected.
The people who spoke on prisons thought there were many other more humane and cost-effective ways of dealing with the problem than the large and costly new facility proposed by the state.
And finally, a number of people of Hawaiian ancestry pointed out that much of the land under discussion is ceded lands for Hawaiian beneficiaries. They doubted that there would be any benefits for the Hawaiians waiting for agricultural lots and homesteads.
They also termed it the worst possible land in the worst possible location--hot, dusty, contaminated and surrounded by proposed industrial use.
Said one, "This land is puke--give us better."
The bad news was not limited to public reaction.
The PowerPoint presentation featured images that were all but invisible in the well-lit room. They could not even be seen by the presenters who knew what was on the screen. (Go to this story at www.mauiweekly.com to view a pdf of the entire presentation, which was supplied by Munekiyo and Hiraga, a private consultant that prepared the documents.)
The only other visuals on display were three 11- by 17-inch color printouts on easels. A single-page handout featuring a tiny map measuring four by six inches and accompanied by fewer than 250 words of descriptive text was the only information distributed in hard copy to those present.
A spokesperson for Munekiyo and Hiraga, a private consultant that had prepared the documents.
At the end of the meeting, Sen. Baker commented that this was a much different event than she had envisioned and expressed disappointment at the presentation and its outcome.