Imagine a bird’s eye view of Maui: the more or less haphazard boundaries of the island’s population centers, the hotels and shopping center clusters that bleed inland, contrasted against the greens and browns of the island’s terrain. Now imagine what those same boundary lines will look like in 20 years.
If you detest what you see, if the possibility of unfettered growth makes your stomach turn, you have a chance to share your mana‘o with the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) over the next five weeks.
To many, GPAC may sound like just another bureaucratic acronym, something steeped in impenetrable technical language that’s inaccessible to the layperson. But it’s simpler than it seems, and for the first time the public has a chance to weigh in at GPAC meetings.
It goes like this: Maui County has a Countywide Policy Plan, which lays out policies on growth, conservation and other matters for Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
The Maui Island Plan, which the Planning Department developed, is part of this. It aims to guide lawmakers in the future by setting geographical boundaries for development and creating policies on things like cultural heritage, environmental protection and economic development.
The county set up GPAC to review the plan and make suggestions if the group thought the document needed any changes. The group consists of 25 individuals—19 selected by the county council, six by the mayor—from each region of the island. Members of GPAC represent a strikingly wide range of ideologies, from the staunchly pro-environment to adamantly pro-development. Each member is an unpaid volunteer.
The first draft of the policy plan, says GPAC Vice Chair Dick Mayer, didn’t have the teeth that it needed.
“The plan we were given was so weak that GPAC decided to make major recommendations and changes,” says Mayer. “We’re still working three years later on trying to make recommendations. The difference between the original and what we’re recommending is a sea change.”
The committee, however, was too large and cumbersome to tackle the far-reaching document with any efficiency, he says, and so they broke down into several smaller groups, called Investigative Review Committees (IRCs). Each IRC focuses on a specific area of the plan.
Those focuses are: heritage, population, housing, infrastructure, development and land use/directed growth. In the coming weeks each group will discuss its recommendations for the island plan.
The January 22 meeting will consist of presentations by the subcommittees focusing on heritage, economic development, population and housing.
One of the more contentious issues surrounding the plan is that of urban growth and rural area boundaries. The public can give testimony on those vital matters in early February, Mayer says. These lines, once set, will limit the total area of developable land.
Landowners will still be able to build outside the boundaries, but no large-scale developments will be allowed. People building outside the line can’t expect much in the way of new infrastructure.
“It hopefully will make it clear to developers where development will be easily allowed and encouraged and where it will be prohibited,” Mayer says.
Urban growth boundaries will also give the county a clearer idea of where populations will be more highly concentrated, and thus help pinpoint the ideal locations for infrastructure.
“It will allow change to take place in a more orderly fashion,” Mayer says. “That’s what planning is all about.”
What’s different about these GPAC meetings is that, unlike most government meetings, public testimony sessions will be allowed only after the IRCs give their presentations rather than before, as is usually the case.
Mayer said that this will equip members of the public with all of the information they need before they make their statements.
These meetings present an excellent chance to participate in a process that will bring concrete results. Then when you imagine Maui in 20 years, the picture may be a little brighter. MTW
WHAT: General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) meetings
WHEN: Every Tues., Thurs. and alternating Saturdays at 5pm through Feb.
WHY: To get public input on the countywide plan
FOR MORE INFO: www.co.maui.hi.us