Board Talk: Maui County Council Remains Skeptical of State Urbanization Plans for Pu`unene

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The Maui County Council is standing in the way of the state’s efforts to develop the commercial potential of nearly 700 acres of state-owned land in Pu`unene. The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Land Division has appealed to the council to include the lands in the Maui Island Plan Urban Growth Boundary.

The county is currently reviewing a draft general plan that will direct the island’s growth through the year 2030.

At present, the land is under a revocable permit to Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., for agricultural purposes. The county and Maui Electric Company have utility easements across it.

The general area includes sugarcane fields owned by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (an A&B subsidiary), and land controlled by the Department of Hawaiian Home Land, Maui County, and Pacific Rim Land, Inc..

For the past few years, the state Department of Accounting and General Services, on behalf of the Department of Public Safety, has been looking to build a new prison on land in the area near Mokulele Highway, but Maui’s planning director has so far opposed the idea.

“Because there are several state agencies seeking to develop projects in the area, the agencies formed an interagency working group to pursue the coordinated, cost-effective development of their various lands/projects,” according to a report to the Board of Land and Natural Resources by Land Division planning and development manager Keith Chun.

The county has asked DAGS to move the proposed prison away from the highway, Land Division administrator Russell Tsuji told the Land Board during a June 8 briefing.

“There’s been a lot of resistance from DAGS. DLNR and DHHL have been trying to cooperate as best as we can,” he said. “We really don’t have any preference where the jail goes. … Anyway, that was kind of a problem and still is.”

The County Council has already voted down the DLNR’s request to put its 700 acres inside the urban growth boundary, despite a plea from Tsuji that the DLNR needs the change to generate revenue.

“Particularly on Maui, we don’t have a lot of large tracts of lands that could be income producing. … We have a lot of taro RPs [revocable permits], two wind leases. One small hotel in Kihei generates only $80,000 a year,” he said.

Tsuji had also enlisted Public Lands Development Corporation executive director Lloyd Haraguchi in his effort.

Haraguchi told the council that he intends to work with the county on everything and not run the project through without consultation, Tsuji said. He added that Haraguchi’s agency does not yet control the DLNR’s lands, but certain council members “had a lot of questions and still a lot of concerns,” and some even proposed designating the DLNR’s land for preservation.

This was despite Tsuji’s assurances that any land transfers from the Land Division to the PLDC must be approved by the Land Board at a public meeting, and that PLDC meetings are also open to the public.

“I wanted to let you know we are having a very hard time with the county council,” but it has invited the DLNR to develop a master plan for the area that can be presented to the community in August, Tsuji said.

When O`ahu Land Board member John Morgan asked where A&B was in these discussions, since HC&S farms land in the area, Maui member Jerry Edlao said it’s likely that A&B has got other projects in the works and “wants to stay away from this [and not] get dragged in and get a bad taste on themselves.”

— Teresa Dawson

Volume 23, Number 1 July 2012

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