Waiale Project Gains Initial Approval from LUC
By Wendy Osher
The state Land Use Commission yesterday voted 6-1 in favor of reclassifying 545 acres of land for the proposed Wai’ale master-planned community in Central Maui from agricultural to urban.
As plans for the project evolved, developers said the Waiale plan would assist in providing relief to the current overall shortage of housing on Maui, while also providing employment opportunities during and after its development.
The project calls for the development of an estimated 2,250 residential units, a middle school, a regional park, and a regional community center.
The property is adjacent to Maui Lani and Waikapu with the Kuihelani Highway forming its eastern boundary.
The southern portion of the site was previously cultivated for sugar production by the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. Production ended in 2005, and fallowed sugar cane fields currently exist on the property south of Waiko Road.
A portion of the lands north of Waiko Road was previously mechanically cultivated as a turf sod farm. Other portions of the area have been utilized for sand mining with the balance used for cattle and horse grazing and cattle feed lot.
The lone dissenting vote on Monday came from at-large LUC commissioner, Jaye Napua Makua of Maui, who expressed concerns over the protection of cultural resources and burials, saying details of a proposed cultural preserve within the project, were insensitive to the practices of Native Hawaiians.
“I want to remind everybody that because we don’t do things like everybody else does them, doesn’t mean that they are not valid and they are not legitimate. The thought of a sidewalk and a paved walkway, so that people can view and visit the site makes my na’au (gut) turn,” said Makua of the cultural preserve plan for burials and iwi kūpuna (ancestral bones).
The access portion of the preservation plan states the following:
“Burial sites may be viewed from walking trails at the preservation area. Access within the preservation areas for lineal and or cultural descendants is not afforded at this time, as no lineal and or cultural descendant claims have been received by the SHPD for these burial features In the event that a future lineal or cultural descendancy claim is recognized by the MLIBC, access to the burial site within the preservation area shall be permitted at reasonable dates and times mutually agreed upon by the landowner and lineal and cultural descendants.”
Approximately 33 acres are proposed to be set aside as cultural preserves where the greatest concentration of burials occur.
“As a master planned community, it offers residential choices, commercial space, development space, parks, the cultural preserve, affordable housing, a school, and a community center,” said Commissioner Lisa M. Judge, also of Maui.
Judge, who called the project, “an example of good planning,” said, it’s one of the few things that the commission has seen that has taken a lot of time and had a lot of collaboration with the county and the general public.
“I recognize that there are varied concerns, and some archaeological concerns; but as we’ve done in the past, through conditions, and hopefully with diligence from the state and county agencies, these concerns can be addressed,” said Judge.
In response to commissioner Makua’s comments about cultural protection, fellow commissioner, Ronald I. Heller of O’ahu said, “I certainly respect her knowledge and expertise in the area of Hawaiian cultural practices, and wouldn’t presume to disagree with her; but I do think that there is a balance that has to be done here.”
Heller said that while there are concerns for preservation of sites of cultural significance, there is also a need for housing and economic development.
LUC Commission Chair, Normand R. Lezy, said developer, A&B Properties, has “demonstrated a willingness to be sensitive to the concerns that were raised by the public and how they do their business.”
Lezy said it is his hope that A&B will continue to work with the public as the project evolves further.
“We will continue to have dialogue with the community,” said A&B Properties Vice President, Grant Chun.
He said there are lots of community benefits accommodated in the plan and called Monday’s vote a “good outcome.”
The LUC decision is the first step in what Chun called a “long process” that will also require applications for zoning and community plan amendments down the road.