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Community Plan Raises Issues on Land, Economy

Molokai’s future is being weighed as a local committee reviews the island’s Community Plan update, a blueprint for the next 20 years. The plan spans 2015-2035 and establishes the goals and policies that residents envision for the island’s development. The 13-person Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) is in the process of reviewing the chapters and is seeking input from fellow residents on issues like community design, water usage, natural resource management and infrastructure development.

Last week, the problems facing Molokai’s economy and issues of land use, were on the hot seat, with hours of education and discussion for committee members.

For CPAC member Lori Buchanan, the planning process offers an important opportunity for community problem-solving.

“We’re planning answers to issues before they become issues,” she said.

Economic Development

One of the topics, according to the plan, is that Molokai’s market isn’t big enough to support the island’s needs. One way of boosting the economy, committee members said, is through short-term vacation rentals. On an island without major hotels, rental homes on the island are a viable option for visitors. However, committee members said the concern lies with preserving neighborhood identities while encouraging growth.

“I would advocate that we put in some sort of limitations because we want to retain the flavor of our neighborhoods,” said CPAC Chair Steve Chaikin. “If you get one [short-term rental] and then another and another, all of a sudden it’s no longer a rural neighborhood. It’s a commercial enterprise.”

However, committee member Glenn Teves said he felt the land’s main production should come from “agriculture, not tourism.” One economic policy presented in the plan is to support development of agricultural products. Fellow CPAC member Kip Dunbar said Molokai needs to make sure its level of exports are at a high-enough level to justify the barge’s regular visits.

Committee member Greg Jenkins said another economic issue to consider is that of real property taxes. According to statistics from the county, said Jenkins, delinquency on real property taxes is at about $6 million on Molokai. Jenkins said it could affect public services and hoped the community could each contribute toward helping the situation.

“Where that money stops and [Councilwoman] Stacy [Crivello] is told no, you can’t have a public works project, that has economic impact,” said Jenkins. “… It’s just one piece of the pie that adds up to everything else.”

Land Use

On June 4, the committee participated in an exercise reviewing land use across the island. Part of the process involved taking into account the community’s current use of the land, as well as potential for growth in the community’s activities.

On the West End, the committee discussed the future Molokai Ranch land, but members said the majority of decision-making will come during later meetings.

When it came to Kaunakakai, the topic arose on potential growth above Ranch Camp. If the business district were to expand there, said members, the issue would be finding a driving route that wouldn’t disturb Ranch Camp residents. Committee members said they didn’t want to see Molokai end up like Lahaina, where the town grew while roads stayed the same.

While these were just a few of the topics the committee touched on, residents can learn more at future meetings and get involved by offering public testimony. The CPAC will be discussing infrastructure on June 17, at Kalanianaole Hall at 5:30 p.m. Public facilities and services will be the topic of a June 18 meeting at Kalanianaole Hall at the same time.

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