WAILUKU - Owners of Pukalani Superette voiced their opposition Tuesday to the proposed Upcountry town center near their store, saying that the development would create more traffic and that their preference was for the land to be used for agricultural purposes.
In expressing his opposition to the project, Aric Nakashima, a member of the family that owns the landmark store, added that he wanted assurances that if senior housing is proposed for the town center project that it be built - and not be used as an enticement to pass the project through the process.
"I oppose any development that uses senior housing as an excuse to develop," said Nakashima, who was testifying on behalf of himself before a Maui County Council committee considering the General Plan.
Nakashima cited the Kulamalu development up the road in Pukalani that had touted a senior housing component in its plans. The commercial component has been built, but no senior housing has arisen as yet. He didn't want to see that happen with the town center, proposed for former pineapple fields known as the Pukalani triangle, across the street and mauka of the Superette.
Also testifying was Nakashima's brother, Myles, who is co-owner of the store. He cited traffic and other problems the mixed-use residential and commercial project would create.
"Traffic would increase on an already congested road," he said of Makawao Avenue where the longtime store is located. "I think (the project) would negatively impact the area."
But Chris Hart, speaking for Pukalani Associates, the developers of the Upcountry town center, said that the project has plans in place to address traffic and growth issues. As part of the project, developers will widen Makawao Avenue from Old Haleakala Highway to the new section of Haleakala Highway and that 23 percent of the 40 acres of the project will be park and open space areas and that the development will not encroach its boundaries along Old Haleakala Highway and new Haleakala Highway.
The developers also will seek to build senior housing.
"I can only say, we are definitely of the mind we would like to do a two-story senior housing community as a residential component of the property," Hart said when asked by council members about the developer's commitment to senior housing.
The Nakashimas and Hart were three of more than two dozen people who testified Tuesday morning at the council's General Plan Committee meeting in the Council Chambers. The committee is reviewing the draft Maui Island Plan's growth boundaries and is focusing on growth plans for the Makawao-Pukalani-Kula region. Tuesday's meeting was recessed until 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The committee will hear from testifiers who signed up Tuesday but could not speak because the meeting was recessed. New testifiers also will be allowed to speak.
The majority of the testifiers Tuesday said that they were against having agricultural land put into rural growth boundaries fearing more homes and business development. Testifiers said that it was important to keep the agricultural lands for farming to help Maui become sustainable.
Myles Nakashima was one of those testifiers, saying that he wanted the land across from his store to be used for agricultural purposes. He has heard that the former pineapple field has good soil for growing pineapples.
He said that keeping more agricultural land would be beneficial for "our fragile food chain."
Aric Nakashima said that he was testifying for the "silent majority," which included customers and friends who don't want the Upcountry town center. He added that some of that group welcomed the senior housing component because they are approaching their golden years.
Asked by Council Member Elle Cochran if he thought the commercial and residential project would drive more business to his store, Aric Nakashima said no.
Hart, who previously testified on the Upcountry town center, reiterated that adding the project to the Pukalani urban growth boundary would be "logical urban in-fill" because the project is adjacent to Pukalani urban development.
He said that developers have met with various community associations and will continue to keep council members updated on their plans.
Hart said that the project includes the senior housing component because the community asked for it. The development will have sufficient off-street parking, provide pedestrian access to medical services and shopping and offer a "safe link" between King Kekaulike High School and Makawao Avenue.
He previously said that the new section of Haleakala Highway will serve as a divider between Pukalani and Makawao, and that the project would not blur those lines between the two towns.
According to documents from the Planning Department, about 225 units are proposed in the development with an emphasis on multifamily units.
At least one testifier said that he supported the town center project if developers start with the senior housing component first before adding the commercial component.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.