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More is More: Future Kihei Development Reviewed at KCA

Retired UHMC professor presents a surplus of information at Kihei Community Association meeting. At least 14 significant projects planned for South Maui…

September 26, 2013
Susan Halas - Contributing Writer ( , Maui Weekly

More is more was the take away from a presentation by Dick Mayer at the Tuesday, Sept. 17, meeting of the Kihei Community Association (KCA), where the retired University of Hawai'i Maui College professor was among the featured speakers.

"What kind of Maui do you want?" asked Mayer, a self-taught expert on local planning matters. According to a handout he prepared, there are at least 14 significant projects planned for South Maui with a combined landmass of over 5,000 acres. The figures on his "guesstimate" projected more than 15,000 additional housing units and as much as 3 million additional square feet in non-residential development, with an additional four new hotels in the planning stages. (See "Proposed South Maui Development - September 17, 2013," on page 2.)

Mayer said he believed his estimates are, if anything, on the "low side," as they don't take into account "'ohana" units, vacant lots and projects with fewer than four units.

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Retired University of Hawai‘i Maui College Professor Dick Mayer’s presentation covered an enormous amount of very detailed planning data for South Maui at an extremely rapid pace.

When it comes to entitlements, he said, all of the 14 were within the Urban Growth Boundaries of the Maui Island Plan, most had received "urban" land use designation, some were in the Kihei-Makena community plan, some had received the necessary zoning and only a few needed to meet additional requirements related to shoreline management. A development needs to meet all of these criteria in order to move forward.

According to the 2010 census data provided by Mayer, South Maui has 26,892 residents, 10,889 housing units and 7,710 condominiums. In his view, growth on the scale projected already well underway will bring enormous increases to the size and density of the population, and also have tremendous impact on the future of South Maui.

Mayer characterized the local planning process as "developer-driven," with "no local decision making." He also listed "outdated plans" and "excessive unused entitlements" as among the problems the area faced when considering future growth.

He briefly looked at the future plans of some of Maui's largest land owners, including Alexander & Baldwin, Haleakala Ranch, 'Ulupalakua Ranch, Ka'ono'ulu Ranch and Makena Resort. He also touched on highways and transit corridors, indicating where future roads could or might go should funds become available to build them.

Mayer's ambitious presentation squeezed an enormous amount of data, including dozens of slides, all with multiple, complicated maps, into a very short time period.

When the lights came back on, the faces of the audience wore glazed expressions as they struggled to take in the enormity of what might possibly be built in the next 20 years. Implied, but not discussed, were the underlying questions of where all the water, roads, schools and money would come from to undertake expansion on this scale.

Will Spence, director of planning for the County of Maui, followed Mayer to the stage.

In dramatic contrast to Mayer's rapid-fire PowerPoint presentation, Spence delivered his comments in a low-key style at a more moderate pace.

He took issue with Mayer's contention that the planning process was developer-driven and that local residents had little access to it, pointing out that the KCA itself had become an influential force.

"Even though it might not seem like it to you," Spence said, "you have had an impact; you have a lot of influence. When you speak, people listen."

He also was at odds with the apocalyptic nature of Mayer's vision.

"Just because you see blobs on a map," he said, "doesn't mean it will be built."

Spence also observed that many of the items mentioned had very long timelines, and the costs presented were maximum build-out figures.

As for his own views, Spence said, "I'm not fond of the update process," noting that while the law calls for Maui's community plans to be updated every 10 years, it takes 14 years, minimum, for a complete update cycle. "And that's if everything moves at top speed and there are no delays," he added.

He said he hoped to see the process itself reworked, and added, to that end "community involvement" was critical.

But perhaps the real core issue of the evening was raised by Kihei resident Emily Goss, who asked, "Is development always good? Is there any point when there's enough? Is there an end in sight?

That's a good question, Spence replied, but offered no definitive answer.

KCA meetings are held on the third Tuesday of the month at Kihei Charter School at 41 East Lipoa St. For more information, visit



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