WHILE YOU WERE AT WORK THIS WEEK…
There are a couple county hearings from earlier this week that you should know about. On Monday, July 23, the County Council General Plan Committee met at 9am to discuss the West Maui section of the Maui Island Plan Growth maps (which, oddly enough, don’t include the 1,500-plus homes slated to go into Olowalu). Considering that most of you probably worked at that time, it’s unlikely many of you actually made it. Ditto the Tuesday, July 24 Maui Planning Commission hearing (also at 9am, natch) on the long-awaited Honualua project.
We’re talking thousands of homes and tens of thousands of square feet of commercial development that will be in discussion. Too bad most residents couldn’t make it, because the stuff is kind of important. Of course, given the fact that four of the nine Maui Council Council members (nearly a quorum!) are running unopposed in the upcoming election, it’s easy to think that most people on Maui are pretty happy just letting them make these kinds of decisions on their own.
Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that all of these development projects represent pretty much everything that’s wrong with the build-out of Maui. These are massive projects, the former packed with commercial, retail and residential construction. They’ve been discussed by planners for years, but it’s nearly impossible for residents who must work for a living to get a feel for their true impact on island life.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Honualua especially is a sprawling, technical, monster of a planning document. Maui Tomorrow somehow managed to break it up into four giant PDF files, but the idea of working people sitting down at a computer to read hundreds, if not thousands of pages of charts and legalese is laughable.
For those few who have read through the EIS reports on projects like Honualua, and take the ambiguities and contradictions they find in them very seriously, it’s impossible to discuss such projects with a straight face. A few days ago longtime smart growth advocate Lucienne de Naie emailed me about the July 23 and July 24 hearings, and it was impossible for her to discuss something like the Honualua EIS without becoming sarcastic:
“The report concludes that it would be impossible to preserve any more than 40 acres of the recommended 130 acres [of] native flora and fauna, existing habitat and cultural site area because this would make the housing in the other 82 percent of the property ‘too crowded.’ For example, if the 504 single family luxury homes had to be located on lots that were one third of an acre (14,600 sq ft) instead of half an acre (20,000 sq ft) probably the whole project would fail. Right?”
I can remember clear back to 2007, when residents really had to agitate then-County Council Land Use Committee Chairman/current mayoral aide Mike Molina into holding one evening-hours hearing on Honualua. Seriously, why is this notion that the county ought to hold public hearings like these in the early evening hours still controversial?
SPEAKING OF HONUALUA…
Did you know that about a quarter of the land set aside for Irvine-based Eclipse Development Group’s proposed–and insanely controversial–Kihei mega malls are for workforce housing units necessitated by the Honualua project? See, the law is a funny thing: the Wailea 670 developers have to build housing accessible to those of us not making a few hundred grand a year, but they don’t actually have to build it in the Wailea 670 project itself. So they decided to build them further north on Piilani Highway, over where those giant outlets and mega malls are going. Because as we all know, working people love living next door to giant commercial centers.
I was reminded of this while reading of the brave stance taken by state Office of Planning Director Jesse Souki (state House Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki is his cousin) in the fight over the proposed Kihei mega malls. According to the July 17 Maui News, Souki has filed papers stating that the plan to build all those big commercial outlets is a substantial and unwarranted divergence from the land’s light industrial zoning: “There is a sufficient basis for concluding that the currently proposed project is not in substantial compliance with representations made in the original petition,” he said in the filing, according to the paper.
But have no fear–Eclipse says their plan always included massive commercial development, and that whole “light industrial” thing was just a concept. Indeed, “the LUC did not include any condition limiting the property to any particular use,” said Eclipse attorney Jonathan Steiner in court filings, according to the July 20 Maui News.
See? And we all thought zoning in this state actually meant something specific–residential homes go in “residential” zones, tilt-up industrial buildings go in “light industrial” zones and so on. Silly us.
ERI YOSHIDA MOONLIGHTS AS BAT GIRL?
So last Thursday night a bunch of us from the MauiTime ohana decided to take in a Na Koa Ikaika Maui baseball game. It was “MauiTime Night” after all, which allowed us to promote our annual Best of Maui issue. Judging by the few hundred faces we saw in the grandstand at Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Stadium in Wailuku, it was very gratifying to see so many people joining us.
We had a blast, as we usually do at ball games, but we couldn’t help but notice player number 4–Eri Yoshida–acting as bat girl for the Ikaika.
That’s right–the famed “Knuckleball Princess,” who has won more games as a female pitcher than anyone else in the history of American professional baseball and already has a spot in Cooperstown, New York. She’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame right now, while still playing for the Ikaika, and yet during the game she was acting as the bat girl, fetching bats after her teammates lined one onto the field.
We knew she wasn’t scheduled to pitch that night, but we couldn’t help but look at each other and say, “huh?” So this morning I emailed Chris Osgood of the Osgood Marketing Group, which handles publicity for the team, and asked whether being the bat girl was part of her job.
“It’s not part of her job,” Osgood emailed back. “LOL. She asked to help out. It’s just another example of her humility and ‘team first’ attitude.”
Like we’re going to argue with that.