Large-scale development could be too much

KIHEI – South Maui’s “inadequate infrastructure” may not be able to shoulder the effects of large-scale future development projects like the expansion of the Makena Resort, the Honua’ula project in Wailea and the Kihei high school, especially if the community does not have a voice in the planning process, retired college professor Dick Mayer said Tuesday.

Mayer, a Kula resident who has been involved in planning issues on Maui for more than 40 years, presented a status update on more than a dozen planned projects, as well as his concerns about impacts to roadways, the water supply and coastline access, Tuesday night during the Kihei Community Association’s monthly meeting.

“I’m not saying any of these projects are bad or good, but the cumulative effect of all of them, that’s something people should be interested in,” said Mayer, a retired professor from Maui Community College, which is now University of Hawaii Maui College.

Honua’ula, previously known as Wailea 670, would add a proposed 1,150 residential units. Alexander & Baldwin has planned to add 1,150 residential and 640 resort units to Wailea, and ATC Makena Holdings is slated to add at least 850 residential units to the Makena resort, according to data compiled by Mayer.

The proposed expansion of the Maui Research & Technology Park, which is scheduled to appear before the state Land Use Commission next month, would add 1,250 residential units and 150 hotel units.

“You’ve got to think, what kind of impact would all this have?” Mayer said.

For one, traffic along the two main routes through South Maui would be greatly impacted from the growth in area population, Mayer said. South Kihei Road and Piilani Highway would become severely congested if another route is not developed, he added.

Ongoing water shortages and limited access to the coastline also are major issues that residents should consider, Mayer said.

“We need to move from a planning process run by landowners and developers to one based on residents of the community,” Mayer told The Maui News after the meeting. “The organized voice of the community could really make a difference.”

County Planning Director Will Spence, who took the podium after Mayer, told the audience that “just because it’s in the plan doesn’t mean it’s going to get built.”

“It looks like a lot of plans, will all these projects come to fruition? Probably not,” Spence said, adding that even the projects that do get built will probably span 20 years.

The planned new high school, the controversial Piilani shopping malls that are currently being revamped, the Kihei Downtown Center by developer Krausz Cos. along Piikea Avenue and smaller developments also are going through the approval and entitlement process.

“You can look at development as an opportunity to partner with large landowners as opposed to ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen?’ ” Spence said. “The question of do we want this or not is not new. When we were getting SMA (shoreline management area) permits for a lot of these condo units, there were objections then too, and now they’re full occupied.”

Choosing smart, feasible and community-centric development projects is key to moving forward, Spence said.

“Instead of creating subdivisions, we should be creating neighborhoods and a place where people want to live. . . . There’s design things you can do that create a sense of neighborhood. I hope we’re headed in that direction,” he said.

But some residents were concerned about adding thousands more residential units when resources are already stretched thin.

“Water will have to be developed,” Spence said, adding that the Maui Research & Technology Park has already completed an environmental impact statement for a desalination plant that may be able to satiate the community’s needs.

“I agree with the director (Spence) that it’s about the quality of the development,” said South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing, who also was at the meeting. “We’ve seen 3,000 luxury condo (units) pop up in the last decade or so. We probably don’t want to see too much more of that. If we’re going to see development, we want to see houses that people like me or my little brothers and sisters can come and live in, and it has to be affordable so people don’t have to move away.”

Ing said that he also was intrigued by updates on the campaign to stop cane burning, which Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Irene Bowie talked about briefly at the meeting.

Bowie advocated a push for green harvesting, a technique that eliminates burning of the crop, which may help Maui Tomorrow’s campaign for cleaner air on Maui. Green harvesting allows the farmer to recycle the tops of the cane to uses as a “trash blanket,” which enriches soil and prevents erosion, Bowie said.

“Our main goal is not to put HC&S (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar) out of business by any means. We support agriculture and we want to see agriculture still in our Central Valley. . . . But we need to encourage our elected officials and HC&S to develop a can-do attitude instead of a can’t-do attitude,” Bowie said.

A new smartphone application may be downloaded for free to help residents easily report incidents of excessive smoke, excessive ash or dust from cane burning activities to the state Department of Health Clean Air Branch. The app may be found by searching “Clean Air Maui.”

* Eileen Chao can be reached at