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MAUI NEWS - Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Maalaea Community Association, like numerous other Maui residents and environmental groups, is objecting to Jesse Spencer's 1,100-unit Ohana Kai project proposed for Maalaea. We support the need for affordable housing and jobs, but note that thousands of homes are already planned or entitled within the nearby Wailuku/Waikapu corridor as well as in north Kihei.
If the Ohana Kai development is approved, it will take away more of Maui's prime agricultural land that should be preserved for our future sustainability. The Maalaea location is unsuitable for a large-scale housing project - affordable or market-priced. In addition, infrastructure and public facilities cannot be provided during these economically bad times.
The developer purchased this land for his project despite opposition from the Planning Department and previous administrations. He hopes to bypass the proposed urban growth boundaries adopted by the General Plan Advisory Committee, which labored for three years to compile the draft Maui Island Plan, and the Maui Planning Commission. Both bodies recommended against the project.
The developer's accusation that Maalaea folks are "NIMBYs" (not in my backyard) hardly seems fair when one considers all the valid arguments against development in this area:
* Roadways. This project will add at least two more traffic signals to further slow traffic going to and from West Maui. With no employment center in close proximity, thousands more residents will clog the highways and add to the pali bottleneck as they drive to work, school and shopping in Wailuku, Kahului, Kihei or Lahaina.
* Schools. The project will include land for a school, but assumes that the state or someone else will build one. Using what money?
* Parks. The nearest beach access is tiny Haycraft Park, with only nine parking spaces and one Porta Potty. Who will fund improvements?
* Police and fire. There's no money to provide substations and adequate protection. Wildfires in the mountains above this windswept, fire-prone project site could rain fire and ash on rooftops, leading to frequent evacuations, further worsening traffic gridlock. There are no alternate evacuation routes from Maalaea should a wildfire jump the Honoapiilani Highway as almost happened during a June wildfire.
* Water. Drinking water is critical to survival. A 2008 United States Geological Survey report (pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2008/5236) of a 4 1/2-year study funded in part by Maui County warns that the southern part of the central isthmus does not have drinkable water. The monitoring well near to the Ohana Kai wells has saline water that is not drinkable. The volume of this seawater from the Ohana Kai wells is not a problem, only the water quality. Any withdrawal of water by Ohana Kai will also accelerate the salinity increases for the entire Waikapu aquifer, threatening the water quality for other users of this aquifer in Waikapu.
* Injection wells. The volume of injected wastewater from this huge project will dwarf the output of the much smaller injection wells currently located along Hauoli Street. The developer plans to use some of the wastewater for irrigation purposes, but using nutrient-rich wastewater for irrigation so close to the ocean will have the same effect as putting it down injection wells - it will still get into our coastal waters to harm reef systems. We need wastewater solutions that involve reef-friendly technologies.
The developer refers to Waikapu Gardens, his successful affordable housing project, as proof that the current project will be successful. Waikapu Gardens was built at the height of the housing boom, when mortgage money flowed and almost anyone could purchase a home with no money down. How many current Maui residents can now qualify for financing?
With affordable housing needs rapidly being met by the growing number of foreclosures on existing homes and fewer Maui families able to purchase a home, building new homes, which are not needed, is merely a way to keep the developer's 200 workers employed for another seven years.
Mr. Spencer's complaints about the environmental impact statement process and having to answer thousands of questions show an arrogant, dismissive attitude toward the planning process and the needs and concerns of others whom that process is meant to protect.
* Gary S. Smith is the president of the Maalaea Community Association.