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Veterans Center OK’d

Museum plans approved with kitchen.   

By Melissa Kelsey

Molokai’s veterans are considered by many to be living legends, and with last Wednesday’s green light to build a new Molokai Veterans Center as a museum, these fine women and men will indeed become living history. Dressed in bright yellow t-shirts, nearly 50 veterans showed up at the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) meeting to represent their case for the Veterans Center.  

“A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten,” said Larry Helm, Commander of the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans.

Voting unanimously, the MoPC approved the veterans’ request for a Special Management Area (SMA) Minor permit, allowing the group to build the center on the veterans’ property located on Kaunakakai Place Road on the way to the wharf.   

“I think what we need to do today is just get this thing going,” said Steve Chaikin, MoPC Vice Chair.

As a result of the SMA approval, which promotes responsible development in the coastline region, the veterans can now apply for their building permit. This process is expected to take less time compared to the SMA permitting, according to DeGray Vanderbilt, former Chairman of the Planning Commission. Once the veterans obtain a building permit, they can start building. The veterans are counting on volunteer labor to build the center, according to Art Parr, the Molokai veteran who is the architect overseeing the building plans. A licensed contractor, plumber and electrician are also involved to supervise the project.

“I think just getting it started is the most important part,” said Molokai veteran Jeff Nartatez. “It just seemed like they were putting the veterans through a lot with just this one project,” he said.

Memories Get a Permit
The property where the Veterans Center will be built is part of the county’s Interim zoning district. The reason it took the Veterans Center so long to be approved is that the Interim zoning district does not allow for its use. Because museums are one allowed use for the Interim zoning district, last winter Commissioner Teri Waros suggested erecting the center as a museum to make the process go ahead more quickly. As a result, the commissioners approved the Veterans Center to be built technically as a museum.

“It has always been our intent to bring our memorabilia over,” said Parr. “When the idea of a museum was suggested, it made sense because that is what we had planned anyway,” he said.

Helm said the veterans also want to build a memorial at the site to honor Molokai veterans fallen at wartime, as well as those who have passed on at home.

Cooking up a Kitchen
As an organization that loves to cook, the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans were concerned when they were informed that zoning complications could prevent them from being able to have a kitchen as part of their building plans.   

“We want to provide food and hospitality Molokai style,” said Helm.

As a result of the Veterans Center being approved as a museum, the Maui County Zoning Department ruled that the kitchen on the veterans’ plan was too big for a museum use. After reviewing their legal rights to determine the kitchen’s size, the commissioners approved the kitchen on the original Veterans Center plan anyway, including it as a condition in the SMA Minor permit.

“I think it would be a huge oversight if we were to build this without the necessary kitchen accommodations,” said Commissioner Teri Waros.
 
According to Vanderbilt, the MoPC has the final authority over SMA Minor permits, and there is no reason why the Zoning Department can dictate how big a kitchen can be for museum use.

“It seems that kitchens are a reasonable accessory use to a museum,” said Vanderbilt. “Especially a living museum that honors the many men and women who have given so much of themselves so that we are able to enjoy what we have today,” he said.  

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