LAHAINA - Saying the state should not develop housing on ceded lands, Native Hawaiians rejected a proposal Wednesday night to build more than 3,200 homes at the Villages of Leiali'i in Lahaina.
"This is our land," said Keahi Kapali, a 33-year-old who identified himself as the West Maui representative for the Reinstated Hawaiian Government. He was among five people to testify at the Lahaina Civic Center on plans by the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corp. to develop 1,128 acres as a continuation of the Villages of Leiali'i master-planned development.
A revised master plan offers two development concepts - one that would build as many as 3,290 residential units and another, more dense community of 3,910 mixed single-family and multifamily residential units.
The Maui News / CLAUDINE SAN NICOLAS photo
Albert-Dall Napahi Dizon spoke passionately Wednesday night against state plans to revamp a master plan to develop more than 3,000 homes at the Villages of Leiali‘i.
"This is too big. This is too much, and this is going on without any justice," Kapali said, adding that the development plans were premature in light of ongoing legal disputes about ceded lands.
The administration of Gov. Linda Lingle wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Hawaii Supreme Court decision barring the sale or transfer of ceded lands until Native Hawaiian claims to those lands are resolved.
On Wednesday night, Hawaiians testified that the property at the Villages of Leiali'i is ceded lands and should stay untouched by the state.
"You guys never learn. You mess the land. The land gonna die," said Albert-Dall Napahi Dizon. The 59-year-old from Lahaina gave a passionate plea about overdevelopment of lands throughout the state, pointing out the numerous hotels and million-dollar beachfront homes.
"I'm not mad at you," Dizon said pointing at Leiali'i project manager Stanley Fujimoto and the charts that showed the proposed housing concepts for Leiali'i development. "I'm mad at the system."
Dizon's wife, Yolanda, also stood firm against the proposed development and asked that the undeveloped lands be returned to the Hawaiian people.
"No can, period. Leave our crowned lands alone," she said.
She said she was appalled by the state's proposal to go forward, despite opposition from Native Hawaiians. "This place is sacred," she said.
Rod Paahana asked Fujimoto what specifically Native Hawaiians and others could do to stop the state from developing Leiali'i.
"I don't know," Fujimoto responded. He said he would include all comments provided Wednesday night in the report about the master plan.
"We hear you. We hear what you're saying," Fujimoto said.
Yolanda Dizon criticized how Wednesday night's meeting was announced. She said that a legal notice in The Maui News was not enough and more people would have spoken out against the project had they been given notice.
"You would have caught a lot more spears tonight," she told Fujimoto.
The villages began in the early 1990s as a development by the former Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, now the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corp.
After initial infrastructure improvements was built, including some interior roadways, curbs and gutters, the development foundered because it was on ceded lands.
In 2004, the developed villages project was transferred to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, which built 104 homes for Native Hawaiians that were dedicated in April 2007.
The initial master plan received approvals in 1994 and was to include an 18-hole golf course.
The golf course has been dropped from the revised plan, which now includes two elementary schools, five neighborhood parks and as much as 465,000 square feet of commercial/office space and 696,000 square feet for light-industrial use.
There was no estimate for the costs of the build-out.
The state plans to issue a request for proposals next year from developers who would be tasked with taking on the project, including obtaining all entitlements and permit approvals.
Fujimoto said his agency plans to require, among other things, that 50 percent of the homes fit the affordable housing definition of being affordable to people earning 140 percent of the federal Housing and Urban Development median income for a family of four at the time the homes are built.
The rest of the homes could be sold at market price, although Fujimoto said developers who offer more affordable homes in the development would get more points in favor of their proposal.
If all goes as planned, the first houses could be built in 2014, he said.
Fujimoto was accompanied at the meeting by Alan Fujimori, a principal planner with Belt Collins Hawaii Ltd., the firm hired to assist in the housing development.
None of the 50 or so people attending spoke about which of the two housing concepts they would favor. All five speakers shot down the plan entirely.
Earlier this week, the Native Hawaiian Caucus made up of state lawmakers, including East Maui-Molokai-Lanai Rep. Mele Carroll, proposed setting a moratorium on the sale of ceded lands. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments late next month in the case, which pits the Lingle administration against the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and five Native Hawaiians.
The Lingle administration wants to reaffirm what it maintains is the state's right to sell lands, that it was granted by the U.S. government when Hawaii became a state in 1959.
OHA and its supporters argue that the 1993 Apology Resolution passed by Congress acknowledged claims by Native Hawaiians need to be addressed. Ceded lands are the 1.2 million acres taken over by the United States as a result of the 1898 annexation.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.