There was no argument at this month's Kihei Community Association (KCA) meeting held on Feb. 19, when Lucienne de Naie emphasized, "Kihei needs a vision for its future. It definitely needs a sense of place. And a connection to its past." All of the individuals participating on the KCA meeting panel agreed that the community could--and should--be more involved in the changing plans for Kihei and South Maui.
Mike Moran, the new president of the KCA, opened this month's meeting with warmth and excitement, welcoming several people new to the meetings and encouraging all to pipe up. Calling it a "two-way street," Moran encouraged the audience of approximately 60 people to use the suggestion box or to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request future meeting topics and ideas.
First on the agenda was an update on the proposed Kihei outlet and retail shopping center. Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow Foundation and one of the legal "interveners" (along with South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and Daniel Kanahele), brought the crowd up to speed on the recent state Land Use Commission (LUC) decision. "I'm happy to report that they found the developers in violation of the LUC 1995 Decision and Order (D&O) by a vote of 6 to 3." "What's next?" she asked. Whatever happens, it looks like the KCA and the Kihei community can expect more involvement in the possible development future of the former ranch land. Bowie thanked the South Maui community, "who gave us so much support," both financial and emotional, in the case to prove that the Pi'ilani Promenade was not in compliance with the original LUC decision.
A full house of interested community members attended the Feb. 19 Kīhei Community Association meeting.
Lucienne de Naie, a former member of the Maui General Plan Advisory Committee, was up next to talk about the origins of the community plan for South Maui (known as the Kihei-Makena Community Plan, for the greater Kihei area, including Ma'alaea). She asked, "How does our planning look from an historical perspective?" Kihei was pretty empty in the early 1970s, she recalled, and they were just starting this development idea called "Wailea." There was a plan, even then, for South Maui. "Now, we're starting to update this plan again. Now we can get down to the fine details," said de Naie, excitedly.
To answer questions posed by the KCA and audience, the rest of the meeting panel, composed of Maui County Planning Director Will Spence, Long Range Senior Planner, Kathleen Kern, County Councilman Don Couch, and past KCA president and architect George Rixey, joined de Naie and Bowie on stage.
In response to a question about the enforceability of a community plan, Rixey stressed that the wording of the document is critically important. Bowie chimed in, "If you do want to challenge something, it's really tough if the language is vague, whatever side of an issue you're on." Rixey noted that planning philosophy in the 1970s was totally different than now. The plans and culture then were automobile-centric. Planners thought the population here was going to explode. He pointed out that we haven't even hit the predicted numbers for the development they had planned at that time. Spence said, "These are not stagnant documents--they're made to be updated. This is normal in the planning world."
Couch insisted that Kihei has been leading the way to making South Maui walkable and bikeable. "That's how we got the roundabout," he said. "We have to be really, really specific in this community plan that's coming up," insisted Couch. But how are these plans implemented or enforced? "We do enforcement on a daily basis," Spence pointed out. "We always look to the community plan and see what it says." However, a lot of it is open to interpretation due to the vague nature of community plans. Bowie added, "I think education in the process is so vital. Not just for the community, but also for county officials."
But how can the community get involved? Rixey said that coming to KCA meetings, as a body of interested people, is the best way for a broad range of people to have a say and stay on top of planning issues. He reminded everyone that Kihei, as a town, has no autonomy whatsoever. "That's why it's so important for the people to get involved and stand up for their community."
In terms of future direction, the panel was pretty much on the same page in favor of more walkable, livable communities. Couch promised, "If I'm still around, I will certainly push for that." That has always been his focus, he said. Kern also suggested that there could be more urban design, illustrations and diagrams.
What can the community do to push for more livable and walkable communities? "It comes down to funding and it comes down to the initiative of the people," answered Rixey. "That's the challenge." De Naie pointed out that livable communities around the U.S. have worked really hard to "retrofit" their towns. Even though it originally hadn't been designed or built that way, the town can have the paths and other "walkable community" elements put back in.
Spence assured everyone that the Planning Department listens to the opinions of the community associations as they and the council are discussing and making decisions. Other suggestions for greater community involvement included the KCA working to bring more people, churches and outreach groups into the association. "The County Council will pay attention because of the inclusiveness," de Naie asserted.
Couch encouraged community participation: "Council members need to see 500 people saying this is what we want, as opposed to just a few people." For those who say, "The KCA doesn't speak for me," Couch insisted that they start speaking up. Moran added that if the KCA doesn't currently represent you, "Then come talk to us!" The KCA is just a group of volunteers. "We do the best we can," he said.
On March 19, a KCA meeting on the state Land Use Commission decision will be held at the Kihei Charter School at 41 E. Lipoa St., Suite 29. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Bring canned goods for the Maui Food Bank, a friend, an open mind and an opinion!