WAILUKU - The Maui County Council's General Plan Committee on Thursday mulled over again the state's coordinated Pulehunui master plan, except this time with more information and state officials on hand to answer questions.
Members were presented with a comprehensive plan on mixed-use, revenue-generating ideas. The plan calls for about 939 acres of state land to be developed both privately and publicly within a pear-shaped parcel in Puunene off both sides of Mokulele Highway near the old Puunene airport and National Guard Armory, county and state officials said. The plan calls for a three-phase, 20-year build-out.
In an Aug. 31 report, the state asked the County Council to include Pulehunui in the county's new urban growth boundary areas that are part of the ongoing revision of the Maui Island Plan, instead of keeping it in agriculture and other designations.
Committee members told the state in May to come back and present a full view of the plan, said committee Chairwoman Gladys Baisa. She said she expects members to vote on the proposal next month.
Nearby residents complained that the project was blurring the division between Kahului and Kihei and predicted it would create traffic congestion. Others were concerned about taking land out of agriculture.
Supporters said Pulehunui would generate revenue for state programs, including Hawaiian homelands. The project would help create jobs, stabilize the Valley Isle's economy and provide much-needed help for working families across the county, they said.
State representatives attending the meeting in the Council Chambers included those with the departments of Hawaiian Home Lands, Land and Natural Resources, Public Safety and Accounting and General Services. Department directors were present at Thursday's meeting, along with Native Hawaiian supporters, union representatives and South Maui residents.
The master plan calls for light industrial, business and commercial activities along Mokulele Highway with greenways and bike paths. Heavier industrial activities, such as solar energy farms, would be set farther away. The plans would include mostly state-funded infrastructure, like wastewater and water treatment plants to attract private development, supporters said.
It also calls for a new prison.
No residences are proposed within the master plan, but the economic benefits are intended to help create infrastructure and homes for Native Hawaiians elsewhere on Maui, state officials said.
"I ask you members to please think hard on all it will take for us homesteaders to become homeowners," testified Carol Lee Kamekona.
There were supporters and detractors at the meeting.
Testifier Mary Traynor called the plan "massive urban sprawl" and said she does not support the state developing otherwise untouched lands to solve its financial woes.
Kula resident Dick Mayer questioned whether the state has done its homework and knows how much money the proposal could possibly generate. In addition, he said there are other, better locations not on agricultural lands.
But state wildlife biologist Fern Duvall said he supports the plan because it would help generate revenue by leasing the property, and that money would help pay for important, under-funded conservation programs.
James Hirano of the Maui Community Correctional Center spoke in favor of the Pulehunui master plan because it includes moving ahead on the long-awaited, estimated $235 million new prison by the armory. The Wailuku jail is outdated and overcrowded, he said.
"If we get the ball rolling, it will succeed, whoever is next in my seat," state Public Safety Department interim Director Ted Sakai said.
"We have been working together with the agencies . . . but I'm not sure I can add too many more comments," said county Planning Director Will Spence. "I believe the county's interests are primarily in (improving) the recreational areas (within the site)."
The proposal received some mixed reactions from council members.
"I can support what you are doing," said Council Member Mike Victorino, especially since it will benefit homesteaders. "My question to you is whatever is done is done in a more cooperative manner."
Private consultant Mitch Hirano said that most of the land is unused or leased to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. for cane. Some would remain in cultivation as well, he said, and act "as a buffer." Pacific Rim Land also owns property nearby.
Council Member Riki Hokama questioned allowing commercial development on agricultural lands. He said he first heard of plans for development in the area about 15 years ago.
State representatives said HC&S officials told council members the plantation does not necessarily need this agricultural land.
Hokama spoke last and said he would not support all the intended uses for the area and advised the state to figure out "what it can live without."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.