Jonathan Starr is one of the most powerful people in Wailuku. A former member of the Maui Planning Commission and county Board of Water Supply, as well as Maui Democratic Party chairman, these days Starr sits on the state Water Commission.
“Renaissance man and local businessman Jonathan Starr has spent nearly two decades volunteering his expertise to numerous Maui causes, from playing music at community celebrations to serving as a ham radio operator for civil defense emergency communications,” states a bio of Starr at the website of the Sierra Club’s Maui Chapter, which presented Starr with its ‘Onipa‘a Award in 2010. “Best known for his efforts to revitalize Wailuku town and his expertise about complex energy and water issues, Starr has worked quietly contributing technical known [sic] how, raising awareness and funds for the many community causes he believes in.”
And on April Fools Day, assuming he’s confirmed, he’ll join the five-member Maui Redevelopment Agency, replacing member Warren Suzuki, whose term expires on Mar. 31.
“I’m really excited,” Starr told me. “It’s time for Wailuku to become a much more thriving, healthy community. Assuming I’m confirmed, I want to broaden the process, get more people involved and create a more vibrant process.”
Unlike mainland redevelopment agencies, which typically wield the power of eminent domain, the MRA merely reviews development plans with the “Wailuku Redevelopment Area”–which the county defines as “approximately 27 acres and includes the business blocks surrounding the Vineyard / Market Street intersection and the housing areas west of Church Street to High Street, and north of Vineyard Street to Iao Stream”–and advises the county Planning Department, mayor’s office and County Council.
In a not-very surprising twist, Starr has a large Wailuku development–in the heart of the Wailuku Redevelopment Area–currently in the planning stages. “I own a bunch of property in the center of Wailuku,” Starr said. “It’s been my dream since I became involved 15 years ago to build a mixed-use project where people in Wailuku can live and shop and walk to work.”
When asked how he would respond if and when his project came before the MRA, Starr said he would take appropriate actions. “If my own project comes up, I would certainly disclose it,” he said. “I tend to go out of my way to disclose things. If needed, I’d recuse myself. The MRA is designed to be filled with real boosters of the town, and it always has been. They’re people who want to see the town thrive.”
A check of MRA’s meeting schedule show the panel was to meet nine times in 2013, but only actually met seven times–meetings in September and October were cancelled because of a lack of quorum.