Community Plan Nears Finalization
The plan that will guide Molokai’s next 20 years is nearing completion after a lengthy update process — and residents had a lot to say last week. The Molokai Island Community Plan Update is slated for finalization and adoption by the Maui County Council at the end of June.
The Council’s Planning Committee has made revisions to the draft plan, and Planning Committee Chair Kelly King visited Molokai last Monday to talk to the community about the plan’s updates — the latest in a series of meetings she and Molokai Councilmember Stacy Crivello have held over the last months.
King said several themes struck her when reading the plan, like the importance of maintaining Molokai’s rural character.
“More than any other island, Molokai has a way of life that [depends] on subsistence farming, hunting and gathering,” she said. “The other thing is climate change adaptation. I think this is the first plan that I’ve seen that has really strong language recognizing what kind of changes [will happen]… and parts of Kaunakakai that are actually below sea level. So we’re going to have to start moving mauka [to get out of that zone.]”
She said the final draft includes policy statements from both the East and West ends, and the title has been changed to the Molokai Island Community Plan out of respect for the distinct areas identified, according to King. Other changes include refocusing the prioritization of the implementation items and moving some of the items not under county control to be stated as policy.
“I think where we’re at now, we’ve had a lot of community input, a lot of testimony…” said King. “I feel like we’re where we need to be to honor the community’s input….”
Revisions to the plan were initially prepared and recommended by Planning Department staff, then reviewed by the Molokai Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC), a 13 member committee of Molokai residents, which provided its recommended revisions during public meetings and workshops held from March through October 2015. The draft plan was then passed on to the Molokai Planning Commission, whose members added additional revisions and heard public testimony, wrapping up in March, 2016.
Some residents still felt like they were left in the dark during the process and were concerned about the revisions done by the Planning Committee.
“I have major concerns with the changes made,” said resident Cora Schnackenberg. “I feel this whole thing has been compromised.”
The nearly 200-page document addresses dozens of topics about Molokai’s economic and environmental resources, and while residents shared more than two hours of testimony, much of it actually focused on a different plan. The Molokai Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBFSA) being proposed for the Mo`omomi coastline is referenced briefly in several locations in the Molokai Community Plan. In a separate process, the proposal has been put forward for state designation by Hui Malama O Mo`omomi, a nonprofit that helps manage the area’s ocean resources.
William “Yama” Kaholoaa has been a vocal opponent of the CBFSA and spoke heatedly against any mention of it in the Community Plan. He was joined by many others.
King said the county has no enforcement over the CBFSA and it was included in the Community Plan only because of community input earlier in the process.
“This is not something that the county is proposing to do ourselves, this is something that came from the community,” said King. “It really doesn’t matter what we say [in the Community Plan]. We have no power over the state… The best we can do is to put policy in there to support self-determination.”
Yet as tensions rose over the hotly disputed CBFSA, members of the younger generation called for unity and understanding.
“We should ho`oponopono and come together, because if we don’t do this collectively, nothing going get accomplished,” said resident Duke Kalipi. “We gotta do this together as an ohana… then we can collectively make a decision that’s for the betterment of Molokai. And I don’t care about the pilikia… all I care is for the keiki, it’s their futures that we have to worry about.”
William Kaholoaa Jr., son of Yama Kaholoaa, echoed the sentiment.
“I feel threatened right now because CBSFA jamming this down our throat without us guys knowing what’s going on,” he said. “I feel tension between our ohana…. We [are] the next generation and I agree with [Kalipi], we gotta ho`oponopono no matter how long it takes…. I do understand that we have outside influences that are attacking our shoreline and causing problems within our ecosystem but it shouldn’t be able to tamper with the beneficiaries’ right to gather… When we take care each other, when we take care our place, outside influence going think twice before coming over here.”
Focusing back on other areas of the Community Plan, Mahina Hou Ross said his concern is not with the CBFSA but with issues in Mana`e. He testified against short term rentals and a fence line being proposed to protect the high elevation watershed areas from deer. He said dirt piles from fence installation is causing runoff into the reef, and called for a comprehensive game management plan rather than simply building a fence.
“The fence may protect above, but what’s happening below is we’re getting negative impact that’s irreplaceable with all the water washing the dirt down the mountain onto our reef,” he said.
Mahina Poepoe called for a cap on short term rentals (STRs) on Molokai and advocated that all applications for new rental permits must be approved by the Molokai Planning Commission.
Ka`ala Wright also spoke against STRs.
“I want them to have limitations and be held accountable. They need to provide some kind of benefits to the community,” she said, adding that the vacation rentals are “killing us” by driving up taxes for Molokai residents.
While the Community Plan does address short term rentals, King reminded attendees that there is currently a separate county bill being proposed to place a cap on this type of rental for the island.
Crivello said it’s really gratifying to see families come out and make their voices heard.
“There’s a lot of work put into the community plan and there’s still plenty more times to give your input,” she said. “Your voices are not shallow or empty, it’s deep. For me personally to hear the opportunities that you’re willing to ho`oponopono or kukakuka, that just reminds me that we come from a very special place…. Aren’t you proud to be from this island and why you want to protect what we have?”
King said the Planning Committee will meet next to discuss the Molokai Island Community Plan update on May 17 on Maui. She said there will be at least one more meeting on Molokai with the whole County Council before the final plan is adopted.
The draft plan is available online for review. For more information, call Ella Alcon at the Council’s Molokai District Office 808-553-388, or contact the office of Councilmember Kelly King at 808-270-7108.