Maui County

Land use debate
mushrooms on Maui

Critics say leisure estates are
cropping up on agricultural land

By Gary Kubota

LAHAINA >> Some native Hawaiians are complaining that west Maui agricultural land is being subdivided to make way for estate homes, threatening their farms and cultural rights.

"There will be no Hawaii if this place looks like Honolulu," Maui resident Albert Dall-Dizon told state Land Use Commission members at a public meeting in Lahaina last month.

Along miles of former sugar cane land south of Lahaina still in the state agricultural district, roads and houses are beginning to rise out of the dry brush and red dirt.

Residents like Dall-Dizon who have lived in nearby Kauaula Valley mauka of the sugar cane land said they have seen too many homes that look like leisure estates rather than farm dwellings.

Members of the group Kuleana Ku'ikahi LLC, who farm taro in Kauaula, said they are worried that what they consider as fake agricultural developments will affect their water sources.

Attorney Richard McCarty, representing Kuleana Ku'ikahi, said his clients also want to preserve cultural sites, including the buried remains of their ancestors.

McCarty said one agricultural subdivision, Kauaula Land Co., has not provided a 300-yard setback from the Kauaula Stream to protect potential archaeological sites, as recommended by the state Division of Historic Preservation.

As a result of Kuleana Ku'ikahi's complaint, state Land Use Commission members are planning to review one developer's plan to subdivide hundreds of acres into agricultural subdivisions in west Maui. The commission has ordered developer Makila Land Co. and Kuleana Ku'ikahi to present arguments at a public hearing, probably in March.

Makila Land bought about 4,500 acres between Lahaina and Olowalu in January, 2001 from former sugar producer Pioneer Mill Co. So far, 19 15-acre lots have been sold, said Makila Land official Peter Martin.

Martin said about half of the land is in the state conservation district. He said he was confused by the commission's order for a hearing since his development is no different than agricultural subdivisions in Kula and Haiku.

"People buy the land for the lifestyle," he said. "What they really want is the opportunity to farm."

Martin said some people prefer an agricultural subdivision, because they can obtain lower property taxes on the portion of land that is used for farming.

Martin, who was also involved in the development of the Kauaula subdivision, said the state's setback recommendation was not followed because it would have taken away about half of the venture's 233 acres.

Some of those who live or do business in the agricultural subdivisions say the developments are a step in the right direction.

Jim Gribaudo said agricultural subdivisions in west Maui have given him an opportunity to begin his 30-acre farm on leased land. "Common sense tells me we should never discourage any amount of agriculture," he said.

County of Maui

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