WAILUKU - State Land Use Commission members heard the end of testimony Wednesday, including impassioned pleas to protect Native Hawaiian burials, during their review of A&B Properties' plans to develop Wai'ale, a master-planned community on about 545 acres in Central Maui.
The commission's review will shift gears, moving from the collection of information to rendering findings, legal conclusions and a decision on A&B's application to reclassify the land from agricultural to urban. The next hearing date was not immediately available Wednesday.
During public testimony at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, a half-dozen Native Hawaiians challenged A&B's ownership of the land and said that not enough was being done to preserve burials of ancestors commonly found in sand dune areas such as those planned for development of 2,250 homes, commercial areas, a middle school, public facilities and parks.
County Department of Housing and Human Concerns Director Jo-Ann Ridao testifies Wednesday about affordable housing requirements attached to A&B Properties’ Wai‘ale master-planned community project during a meeting of the state Land Use Commission at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The commission completed the evidentiary portion of its review of the project. Now, the review will move on to a decision-making phase.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
"Protect the remaining sand dunes that are living treasures of nature and the kanaka maoli descendants to the many burials already desecrated and still resting iwi," said Wailuku resident Clare Apana.
She asked commissioners not to allow sand mining in the project area because of the existence of human remains. The land should be established as a living cultural preservation to teach history, "practice the culture of kanaka maoli to honor, revere and communicate with the kupuna who have passed before us," she said.
Hannah Bernard, president of the Hawai'i Wildlife Fund, said all the sand dunes on the Wai'ale site are culturally significant.
"In addition to being the site of one of the most significant battles in Maui's history (the battle of Kakanilu'a, the battle of the sand dunes), it is known as the sacred resting place of the iwi kupuna - the people who fought in that battle and those who may have lived nearby," Bernard said in written testimony.
A&B attorneys did not respond to the testifiers' comments, but the development's environmental impact statement says that the project would feature cultural preserve areas dedicated to the preservation of archaeological features and lithified sand dunes.
On the issue of land ownership, A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun said that A&B established its ownership of the properties in documents provided to the commission as part of its application for land reclassification.
Waihee Valley resident Johanna Kamaunu said that she and other kuleana residents would be injured if stream water were diverted to residential developments in Central Maui. Without enough water, Waihee Valley residents won't be able to grow taro, she said.
Kaniloa Kamaunu said that kuleana landowners are entitled to water use, and if that resource were taken by A&B, then "where is the compensation?"
Haiku resident Lucienne de Naie, a member of the General Plan Advisory Committee that reviewed the Maui Island Plan update, said that the citizen planning panel wanted to continue Maui's legacy as "a collection of small towns connected by agricultural lands."
But, A&B's "goal appears to be to extend Kahului as far as possible, even changing history to rename the project site, part of the Waikapu commons in the ahupua'a of Waikapu as 'the last increment of Kahului' '' de Naie said in written testimony.
County Department of Water Supply Director David Taylor and Department of Housing and Human Concerns Director Jo-Ann Ridao were both called as witnesses.
Taylor testified that an estimate of 1.87 million gallons of water use per day for the Wai'ale development was consistent with his department's standards for estimating a project's water consumption.
And, he told commissioners that project plans to develop two water wells in Waikapu were a feasible option as a source of drinking water. Taylor said that the county has had talks with A&B that it would develop the water wells and dedicate them to the county.
The Waikapu aquifer has a sustainable yield of 3 million gallons per day, he said.
If A&B's project doesn't proceed, then development of the Waikapu wells would rise to the top of a list of county projects for new water resources, Taylor said.
Ridao said that she expects that the Wai'ale development would generate 563 affordable homes, or about 25 percent of the total number of homes planned for the project.
Also, as part of the Wai'ale project and for A&B to meet its affordable housing requirement for the second phase of its Maui Business Park, the developer will set aside 50 acres to Maui County - 40 acres for affordable housing, 7 acres for a community center and 3 acres for a park, Ridao testified.
The project site is on both sides of East Waiko Road, with Kuihelani Highway to the east and Honoapiilani Highway and Waikapu to the west. It is bordered on the north by Maui Lani's Legends and Traditions subdivisions and the Waikapu Stream to the south.
In addition to a state land use district boundary amendment, the project needs a community plan amendment and a change of zoning from the Maui County Council.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.