WAILUKU - South Maui residents worried about extra traffic and potential development blurring the boundary between Kihei and Kahului urged Maui County Council members Monday to resist the inclusion of several hundred acres of land in Puunene in the urban growth boundaries of the draft Maui Island Plan.
But developers and state officials contended that state land in the area east of Mokulele Highway, known as Pulehunui, will help raise revenue for state agencies, including the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, who both own different parcels in the area.
"We want to expand the opportunities out there that we are charged with," said Daniel Ornellas, Maui District land agent for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
He said that state officials are charged with creating uses for public land. Currently, the drag strip provides recreational use. He added that solar farms also could be built in that area, as well as other potential revenue-generating projects.
Ornellas and more than 25 others testified at the council's General Plan Committee meeting Monday in Council Chambers at the Kalana O Maui building. The meeting was recessed until 9 a.m. today as the committee continues its review of the Directed Growth Plan for the Kihei-Makena region.
The completed Maui Island Plan will affect where future growth can occur.
Greg Stratton, a Kihei Community Association board member and co-chairman of its planning committee, told council members that the association would rather have the several hundred acres of state land in Puunene designated as park land.
Council Member Don Couch, who holds the South Maui residency seat, said he is concerned that if development in Pulehunui is allowed, it "leaves little space open between Kihei and Puunene."
Couch questioned state officials about traffic mitigation plans and urged them to discuss the possible development with residents.
"We plan to work with the community," said Russell Tsuji, administrator of the DLNR's Land Division.
When Couch pointed out that the state did not show up at a KCA meeting to discuss the proposed growth area, Tsuji replied that the DLNR chose not to attend the meeting at the last minute, because he felt it was better to approach the association with all the agencies involved in the growth area, not just his.
A DLNR official said that his agency is seeking to place about 700 acres of DLNR land in the urban growth boundary area. The properties straddle the areas north and south of the drag strip.
Blossom Feiteira, president of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands, urged committee members to include 100 acres of DHHL land in the Pulehunui area in the growth area, noting this action will help the agency develop sources of income that in turn may provide more homes for those like her who are on the waiting list.
No specific DHHL revenue-generating projects were cited during the meeting.
She said that hundreds of acres surrounding the 100 acres can remain agriculturally designated so that no development can occur.
Testifiers also asked that committee members not add about 390 acres of land to the urban growth area for the Makena Resort.
"We ask for no new growth areas in Makena" said Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow.
"Makena Resort already has 1,000 acres with urban entitlements."
She added that the general plan advisory committee, the Maui Planning Commission and a former planning director all rejected the request.
"It is not needed, and we ask you not to add it," she said.
Doug Spencer of Spencer Homes asked that committee members include his family company's Ohana Kai Village development in Maalaea into the growth boundaries noting that the company has listened to the community and has accommodated its concerns.
He said the project has been scaled back, and there will be no injection wells in the project. Water will be purified further to satisfy a 2nd Circuit judge's ruling.
Spencer said that there will be water and sewer systems in place, a shopping complex and a fire station.
The homes also could be fitted with photovoltaic systems, which are subject to Maui Electric Co. approval.
Spencer said that the family company has looked all over the island for land to develop affordable housing.
"This is the only parcel we have. This is it for us. We're a small family company," he said.
The Maalaea Community Association and area residents said that they were opposed to any changes in the current growth designations in their area, including the Ohana Kai development.
Another project got support from Kihei residents. They voiced support for the Maui Research & Technology's proposed residential housing project, which is currently in a growth area.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.