Housing, an open shoreline proposed for Lanai

More housing, a skateboard park, keeping the shorelines development-free and restoring an old bowling alley were some of the ideas that came out of a two-day Lanai community planning workshop on the Pine Isle last week, county officials said Tuesday.

While representatives for new island owner billionaire Larry Ellison’s Lanai Resorts also were on hand to answer questions about the company’s conceptual plans, Maui County Planning Director Will Spence said the resort did not give a formal presentation and did not add to or amend its current proposals for the island’s development. The workshops were for the community and not the company, he said.

Lanai Resorts did have some proposed conceptual plan maps up for community discussion, he added.

But Lanai Community Plan Advisory Committee Chairman Butch Gima said in an email Tuesday evening that he had some concerns about the workshop process, “given the strong presence” of Lanai Resorts at the planning event.

Gima said he addressed the workshop Thursday, saying that the advisory committee would develop the community plan goals, objectives and policies, and “not the other way around,” meaning Lanai Resorts’ plans should not drive the development of the community plan.

“Ideally, their plans will coincide or fit into our community plan,” Gima wrote.

As one resident told me, “we need to be careful about some of our community’s ‘love fest’ ” with Lanai Resorts’ plans and activities, Gima said.

The community workshops were aimed at allowing people to provide input on their hopes, dreams and ideas for the island’s development, Spence said.

The workshops include “dot boards” for people to show on maps where they want to see various items, including skate parks and housing. People commented on plans for the island’s trail system as well as its shorelines.

Everyone wanted to keep the shorelines open, Spence said. Housing was also a key issue.

The information gathered from the Thursday and Saturday gatherings will be given to the Lanai advisory panel for its discussions set to continue through June, members said.

In January, the committee members heard Lanai Resorts’ conceptual ideas for the island, including the addition of another resort, adding another runway, investing in a water desalination plant, bringing commercial agriculture back to Lanai, partnering with University of Hawaii Maui College for educational opportunities, broadening health care for elderly and preserving Dole Park and Town Center.

Gima pointed out that the workshop included some experts from University of Hawaii Maui College who are in the energy, food production and environmental planning and sustainability fields.

“Their ideas are very progressive and seem to fit into Ellison’s overall goal of making Lanai a self-sustaining community,” Gima said.

Lanai Resorts has proposed to work with the college on various educational and other ventures.

Also attending last week’s workshops as an observer, advisory committee member Ron McOmber agreed with Spence that Lanai Resorts representatives displayed nothing new, but they were able provide residents with more detail on conceptual plans.

As for Lanai Resorts’ plans, McOmber said he would be pleased to see a desalination plant up and running to help supplement the island’s water resources. He said he also was optimistic that Lanai Resorts could bring hospice care to the island, something that was missing when his late wife was battling cancer.

McOmber took issue with the timing of the workshop. He said the workshop should have been held earlier when the Lanai advisory group was starting its review. Now, the committee members have limited time to incorporate the community feedback into their work on the island’s community plan.

Another advisory committee member, Alberta DeJetley, attended the workshops as an observer. She said community feedback “seemed to be positive.”

“People were willing to speak out,” she said. Now, more residents are attending the advisory panel’s meetings. “That’s a very positive sign.”

Asked if she thought the plans of new island owner and billionaire Ellison were a reason for the draw, DeJetley responded: “I think the young people are beginning to realize we are talking about their future . . . and whether or not they will be able to continue to live on Lanai and continue to have decent jobs and where they can raise their families.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.