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Community Planning Continues This Month

After seven months of many six-hour-long meetings and much debate and community testimony, the first phase of the Molokai Community Plan Update process has come to a close. The volunteer board of Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) members wrapped up their duties of review last month, though the updated plan is still a year and a half away from being completed and the opportunities for public feedback are far from over.

County Senior Planner Jennifer Maydan said the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) will begin its review of the draft plan on Nov. 12 during the group’s regular meeting.

“At the meeting they will decide if they will continue to review the draft plan during their regular meetings or in a separate track,” said Maydan, via email. “At that point, the public will have a better understanding of their review schedule going forward.”

After MoPC members review and receive more community feedback over the next six months, the draft plan will then be handed off to the Maui County Council for a year-long approval process.

In the meantime, the latest version of the draft plan is available for review by residents at the Molokai Public Library, the Planning Department office and Council Services at the Mitchell Pauole Center. It is also be viewed or downloaded from the county’s website.

At the CPAC’s last two meetings at the end of October, committee members fine-tuned the language of each chapter and reviewed the draft a final time.

Over the last seven months, one of the issues most frequently mentioned by residents was a request for inclusion of the East End Policy Statement in the plan update. The Statement was developed as a volunteer community effort, and many involved were kupuna who are no longer alive, residents said.

“The kupuna that existed then are gone now, and I hope it can be preserved as an heirloom in the appendix,” said resident Karen Holt at Wednesday’s meeting.

Kamalu Poepoe requested on Oct. 21 that the CPAC “listen to the community.” Calling the East End Policy Statement “the heart and soul of east end that is just lost,” she asked the committee to reconsider including the document.

“While writing the draft plan update the Planning Department reviewed the East End Policy Statement and incorporated narrative text, policies, and actions into the plan chapters where appropriate,” said Maydan. “Discussion at the Aug. 26 CPAC meeting resulted in community members agreeing to work on updating the East End Policy Statement and bring it back to the CPAC or Planning Commission for review and consideration for potential inclusion as an appendix.”

CPAC chair Steve Chaikin said they are now awaiting an updated version from community members.

“This was something that this board took and used as a model, not for just the east end,” he said. “We thought that all the community should be doing that… What we’re only asking you to do is update it and we would be more than happy to put it as part of the plan.”

At the final Oct. 22 CPAC meeting, members voted in favor of leaving three placeholders in the appendix, one for East, Central and West Molokai area-specific descriptions.

“This is where the updated East End Policy Statement may be included, after review and recommendation by the Planning Commission, as well as providing the opportunity for the other regions to create statements that tell the story of an area and the desires of the community for future protection, restoration and development,” said Maydan, via email.

Another issue of contention has been the county’s suggested mixed use residential designation for certain areas of Molokai.

Originally discussed for the Kualapu`u area but later taken off the table, the current draft suggests mixed use residential designation for Maunaloa town. This designation, explained Planning Director Will Spence at an August CPAC meeting, allows a variety of activities to take place within a community area. The goal of mixed use zoning, he said, is to build communities where people can live, work, recreate and shop for essentials without incurring transportation costs.

The Maunaloa Mixed Use Residential district encompasses about 64 acres and would primarily be used for residential workforce and affordable housing.

“Business commercial uses will be small scale neighborhood support services such as markets, restaurants, laundromats, doctor’s offices, and hardware stores,” states the current draft plan. “The sequence for developing business commercial will occur as needed to serve the community.” It adds that light and heavy industrial uses are not included in mixed use residential areas.

The proposal of mixed-use designation, however, has been contended by community residents throughout the CPAC process, raising concerns that it opens the doors to unwanted development.

“Mixed use is hard for me to swallow and the reason it’s hard for me is because Molokai is the last island [to be highly developed],” testified Ho`olehua resident Julia Keliikuli at the Oct. 22 meeting. “My concern is that mixed use leaves too many pukas, holes, where those of us who have a lot of money can utilize that to our advantage, without the concern of the people that live here.”

With so much community opposition to mixed-use, Keliikuli asked the CPAC to consider nixing the designation altogether. However, an Oct. 22 motion from some CPAC members to remove mixed use from the plan failed.

Chaikin advised residents that the update process will continue in the six months ahead with the draft plan’s review by the MoPC.

“Let me say this is not the end of the road,” said Chaikin. “There’s a lot more meetings that are gonna be held on this and you’ll have more opportunities to voice your concerns.”

Those wanting to submit written testimony to the MoPC can do so by emailing planning@mauicounty.gov at least two days prior to the meeting, or by presenting 15 copies of the testimony to commissioners on the day of the meeting.

Colleen Uechi also contributed to this article.

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