WAILUKU - For the first time since 2005, organized paintball appears to be back on Maui.
The Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved the request of Clint Hansen, 30, to start his own 10-acre, full-service, professionally supervised, screen-ed-in paintball facility in Olowalu. Commissioners gave Hansen a six-year conditional use permit for the facility, which he said he hopes to open in March.
His plan is to use the natural landscape and trees in the area at 814 Honoapiilani Highway, which is just mauka the highway and on agriculturally zoned land in the planned Olowalu small-town development.
Garett Uyesugi, owner of Island Hobbies in Kahului, wears a paintball jersey while holding a paintball gun in his store Tuesday afternoon. The Maui Planning Commission approved a permit Tuesday for a paintball facility in Olowalu.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Hansen said he also wants to supplement the foliage with bamboo patches, foxholes and forts, for the activity, which is like a "capture-the-flag" game. But for his plan to move forward, he next needs a grading permit from the Public Works Department.
His facility would have three playing fields as well as a solar-powered office, restrooms and gravel parking. The facility would be accessible via the highway's intersection at the county Olowalu Refuse and Recycle Transfer Station.
Commissioners expressed concern about traffic, but Hansen's consultant, Rory Frampton, had a study saying it would be minimal.
After the meeting, Hansen said he was excited to bring organized paintball back to Maui after two years of planning.
"What I'm hoping is to set a precedent so it catches on," Hansen said.
Hansen already gathered nearly 300 in-person and online petition signatures in favor of the project. Endorsements came from as far as Japan and Scandinavia.
"I was actually blown away by all the support for this," said county planner Kathleen Aoki, whose department recommended approval.
People have been waiting for a legal way to play and host tourism-benefiting tournaments, proponents said. At one time, Maui had two paintball facilities, D&D Paintball and Maui No Ka Oi Paintball. D&D in Kula closed in 2005 after a landowner dispute, Hansen said. It was unclear Tuesday what happened to Maui No Ka Oi in Haiku.
Frampton said his nephew Sam is a paintball fan. The Seabury Hall teen and his friend Taka Tsutsui wrote up 11 reasons in favor, such as making new friends and boosting the economy.
No. 7 was: "Get out and be active, rather than sit at home and play (video) games."
Garett Uyesugi, a paintballer who owns Island Hobbies in Kahului and sells paintball gear, said that without insurance and referees, Maui players have resulted to "renegade" games. They use private property and publicly owned uninhabited jungles and forests. This would eliminate paintball-related trespassing arrests, Uyesugi said.
The games will probably be about $20 per person if the participant has a membership, not including equipment rental and pellets. Residents would get a discount, Hansen said. The cost varies greatly on how much people spend on guns and pellets. An automatic gun can go through 2,000 rounds in a game.
The commissioners expressed almost no knowledge about paintball. They asked how loud the guns are, which is just a quick yelp of air. A paintball is a gelatin-filled ball of nontoxic paint. The caps wash away in the rain, Hansen said.
But the paint has been known to stain if it's allowed to dry.
The sport itself is essentially a capture-the-flag sport with air-compressed paint pellets hurled toward players. Once hit, the person is out. The pellets can bruise but rarely break the skin.
Hansen said the highway was much louder than the guns, and there are no homes in the immediate area to be disturbed by players yelling and laughing. The hours would be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Frampton noted that the three play fields would have screens up to 20 feet high. Trees also would block the paintballs from the highway 100 feet away, he said in response to commissioner concerns.
As for Olowalu town development, plans are on hold, so Hansen may not have to find another suitable location in 2017. It's still uncertain if the Maui County Council would include the proposed new Olowalu in the Maui Island Plan, a master planning document under review by the council's General Plan Committee.
Hansen may not have to leave his land license agreement ever, if he is successful and Olowalu town is not.
In other commission news, members unanimously approved a couple of land use amendments for KG Maui Development's 13-lot Pulelehuakea Residential Subdivision in Pukalani. The changes were required to make the plan consistent with golf course use.
Finally, the commission deferred a vote on plans for a new church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, due to a notification error by the applicants.
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.