WAILUKU – Maui planning commissioners Tuesday praised a proposed wind farm as a “wonderful, wonderful project” but raised doubts about getting the massive equipment to the remote location on the southwest flank of Haleakala between two sections of the Auwahi native plant restoration area.
The commission was commenting on a draft environmental impact statement for Sempra Energy’s proposed wind project at Ulupalakua.
Worries about losing the last highway ocean views to what Chairman Jonathan Starr called “pole land” also came up Tuesday. But the wind farm itself was warmly received, with Starr wishing only that it could be bigger than the 21 megawatts proposed.
Pardee Erdman, of Ulupalakua Ranch, which will lease nearly 1,500 acres to Sempra, called the project “a win-win for the ranch.” He said the infrastructure needed to transport heavy turbines and lengthy vanes will “make that land more productive than it is today,” although he added, “We are going to continue raising cattle.”
Maui Electric Co. has contracted to begin purchasing wind electricity from the project a year from now.
But developers still have to obtain many permits before they can proceed, including a special management area permit for parts of the project makai of the road to Kahikinui.
Maui County has gotten tough with illegal vacation rentals.
Aware of the growing number of illegal rentals intruding into residential and agricultural areas, the county Planning Department began aggressively enforcing zoning laws in early 2007 and shut down a number of operators.
Deputy Planning Director Ann Cua said the department gave illegal operators a reasonable time to close.
Later, in January 2009, in an attempt to bring vacation rentals into compliance, the Maui Council passed an ordinance allowing a limited number of bed-and-breakfasts to operate in various areas.
Since then some 33 rentals have received permits, including coastal residences in Paia and Kuau.
Former Kuau store manager Leona Nomura said she supports enforcement of zoning laws because neighborhood beaches have become crowded with visitors. She said people have been treating residences as vacation investments, then complaining when they are told to shut down.
“They’re trying to get laws to fit their needs,” she said. “They’re all about buying and selling.”
Cua said while there are still many illegal vacation rentals, the new ordinance has provided a path for those homeowners who want to legally operate their properties as B&Bs.
LIHUE>> A Kauai County Council bill that would legalize hundreds of existing vacation rentals on agricultural lands is gaining ground.
The new bill received a county Planning Commission stamp of approval in April. It sailed through a first hearing at the county council last month.
The bill proposed by Councilman Tim Bynum would give vacation rentals operating on land zoned for agriculture an opportunity to apply for a permit.
The vacation rentals would have to have been operating before March 7, 2008 to qualify.
Two years ago, Kauai passed a law creating a path for vacation rental owners to legalize their operations by applying for permits.
But this measure specifically excluded those operating on agriculture land.
Kula housing project gains a little ground
WAILUKU – Maui Planning Commission members were unable to agree where to designate growth boundaries in South Maui, but they did make some progress in Kula.
The Kula Ridge housing project had both supporters and doubters before the planning commission.
Part of the project is supposed to be affordable, but some wondered how to ensure that it really turns out that way.
"Don’t get into a project-review decision-making mode," advised Department of Planning Director Jeff Hunt, adding that downstream reviews of matters such as community plan designations can look at projects in detail.
"This is the beginning of a 125-hurdle process," said Chairman Wayne Hedani.
When it came to a vote, the controversial portion of Kula Ridge cleared its hurdle, with commission member Warren Shibuya dissenting over concerns about water and the adequacy of Lower Kula Road.
However, A&B Properties’ bid to add 80 acres to 63 acres for residential development at Haliimaile failed.
Commission member Kent Hiranaga pointed out that the developer is going to provide water and sewage treatment anyway, so it would be financially helpful to expand the project.
"A&B is an agriculture company and a development company," he said. "If we want to allow them to continue the agricultural sector of their business, you need to allow some development. If you take away development, I believe you are jeopardizing the future of sugar cane.
"Then you will have lots of ag land to use for something."
However, farmers – organic and conventional – opposed taking prime agricultural land out of production, and on a split vote the 80 acres were excluded from the designated growth zone.
That Hiranaga moved to support an A&B proposal was ironic in light of earlier testimony.
PLAN WILL HAVE MAJOR IMPACT ON WEST MAUI
I would like to express my gratitude to those who took time off from work and family to attend the Maui Planning Commission’s Maui Island Plan meeting at Lahaina Civic Center. However, I am once again disappointed by the Planning Commission’s lack of planning regarding community involvement.
This meeting was not announced in the Lahaina News at all, and did not appear in The Maui News until the Sunday edition. A Sunday announcement for a meeting on a Tuesday is not enough notice, and 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon on the second day of school adds still further insult to the injury.
Correct me if I am wrong, but to replace agriculture in West Maui is a decision that will drastically change the lives of everyone who lives, works or plays in West Maui. Furthermore, it is my impression that the man on the street does not fully understand the impact of what he is signing off on by not attending.
As a member of the West Maui community, I would like to set up another meeting. Not one organized by the Planning Commission or special interests, but one organized by the residents and for the residents who will be affected most. This will be a meeting to formulate a plan for the next step in this process: the County Council’s deliberations on the proposed Maui Island Plan. If you would like to be involved, call me at 385-1649 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you feel that you are being bypassed, you are not alone.
RAMON K. MADDEN, Honokowai