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.
The morning was spent in hours of testimony on all manner of subjects, not all of them closely connected to Monday’s agenda.
Lucienne de Naie of the Hawaii Sierra Club made a bid that would have canceled pro-development votes by advising the commission to follow the practice of the General Plan Advisory Committee to have members recuse themselves on matters that would affect their interests financially, even if indirectly, to the extent of having hotel union members decline to vote on hotel projects because it might change the amount of hotel work.
Saying she was not picking on anyone in particular, she noted that Hiranaga had once worked for A&B.
Hiranaga, making an effort to control himself, told her that he had worked for A&B, until he was fired in 1995 "with two weeks’ notice and two weeks’ severance pay."
He told de Naie that if she imagines he still holds any fondness for A&B, "I think you are imagining it."
Mercer "Chubby" Vicens, retired from A&B and an advisory panel member, said de Naie was incorrect when she said the advisory committee had followed a policy of recusal.
Also making an effort to keep his temper, he said he was appointed by the mayor "to represent a faction of the community," and that he took pride in making decisions that would be "good for the community."
The commission has only three more meetings scheduled, of a total of 17, to wrap up its contribution to the General Plan revision. It has completed its policy statement and will meet again today in the Planning Department’s conference room at Kalana Pakui.
The panel will continue making recommendations on growth boundaries, which make development easier in designated areas and more difficult outside them.
This is a new concept, and at times the commission was counseled not to get too wrapped up in which specific proposals are within a proposed boundary.