WAILUKU - The planned Olowalu Town development continues to be a hot-button issue as the Maui County Council works toward adopting the Maui Island Plan to guide future growth over the next two decades.
The plan has been vetted by the council's General Plan Committee and recommended to the full council, which held a public hearing Tuesday.
The majority of testimony focused on opposition to developer Frampton & Ward's plan to build 1,500 housing units - including 750 affordable housing units - on 600 acres in Olowalu.
More than half of the 55 testifiers during a four-hour morning session spoke out against the project, which the General Plan Committee previously voted to include within the island's urban-growth boundary.
Testifiers repeated arguments that have been heard throughout the General Plan process, urging the council to reverse its decision in favor of protecting the reef and coastline along Olowalu.
Marine biologists, ocean researchers, snorkel tour operators and boat captains said the development would cause detrimental harm to the reef through sediment and storm-water runoff during and after construction.
Sarah McLane, executive director of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, expressed concern that if Frampton & Ward's plans don't pan out, having a growth boundary around the area would allow other developments to come in. She recommended removing the boundary altogether.
"I'm personally pro affordable housing. I'm pro jobs. I'm also for putting these things in areas that can actually sustain them in the long run," McLane said. "Olowalu is something that all of us, the entire island, are supposed to be protecting."
Veronica Sylva, a University of Hawaii Maui College marine biology student, used her allotted four minutes to sing her testimony.
Accompanied by music from her cellphone, Sylva sang in part:
"Maui's got a population problem, can't you tell?
Now you want to add a new town - what the hell?
Studies have been done on Olowalu reef
Construction on the seawall has already caused so much grief
Can't you see the kupuna corals? They're all dying
And this minimizing impact crap - I ain't buying
The studies have been done, and the evidence is right there
Yet, you continue on without a care . . .
Mr. Frampton, Mr. Ward, I bet you guys are nice
But building this town has too high a price. . . ."
Sylva said afterward that her performance was the first time she had testified before the council. She said she tries to promote ocean awareness through an online blog and believed she could reach more people at the public hearing.
"People don't understand that everything is connected on this island chain, and everything can have consequences on the environment," she said.
Lifelong Olowalu resident Adeline Rodrigues, a supporter of the Olowalu Town project, said residents want the infrastructure improvements and amenities that will come with the proposed project, like fire hydrants, street lights and retail shops.
She said that being close to 83 years old, she won't be able to see the town become a reality, but promised to keep an eye on Frampton & Ward "from above."
Developer Bill Frampton reiterated that the project got its start through a 10-day design process at the community level, which drew more than 1,300 participants in 2005.
"From the very, very get-go, we were aware of the special and unique location of Olowalu and its history and its incredible resources," Frampton said. "That played a role in shaping the design of our community. The biggest mantra, if you will, for our community is we want to build a community for Maui's families."
He told the council he's confident the project's engineers have designed Olowalu Town in a way that will allow residents to "coexist with nature."
Mark Deakos, executive director and chief scientist for the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research, said the mitigation technologies being proposed to offset runoff and sediment have yet to be proven. He said he's been meeting with the developers for the last three years.
"I still have yet . . . to get any comfort in the EIS or in any of these plans that supposedly are supposed to protect that reef," Deakos said. "So it is a concern, and to make such a huge decision based on promises is concerning."
He said he would be open to a compromise that scales back the project to prevent any development on lands makai of the highway.
In other testimony, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands asked the council to reconsider the decision not to include any of the 939 acres of state land in Pulehunui within the growth boundary.
State officials said that they had reduced their request to 470 acres - 285 acres for the DLNR and 185 acres for DHHL.
To help generate revenue, the state departments had proposed light industrial, business and commercial activities on lands off both sides of Mokulele Highway near the old Puunene Airport and National Guard Armory.
The Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Kihei Community Association and other individuals also asked the council to reverse its decision to include 390 acres surrounding Makena Resort's golf course within the island's growth boundaries.
They noted that the resort already holds state- and county-level approvals to develop most of the property's 1,800 acres.
Developer Stanford Carr of ATC Makena Holdings, which owns the resort, asked the council to reconsider the preservation designation given to a 98-acre parcel that's already zoned for development.
Carr testified that he doesn't want to see the county caught in "a legal quagmire" over the vested entitlements.
Council Member Riki Hokama asked if that was an announcement of his intent to sue the county, which Carr denied.
Tuesday's hearing started at 9 a.m., recessed around 1 p.m., and was scheduled to resume at 5 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., six more people had signed up to testify; there were about 15 people in the gallery.
First reading on the Maui Island Plan is set for Dec. 7, with second reading on Dec. 21. The council has a Dec. 31 deadline to take action.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.