Mark Hyde: Blanket legislative change to fix zoning mess a remedy worse than the disease

By Mark Hyde

While I agree with Dave DeLeon  that the county has made a mess of planning and zoning, the blanket legislative change proposed by Maui County Council Member Don Couch to address the problem is a remedy worse than the disease.

Furthermore, the megamall case cited by Mr. DeLeon to justify his call to action undercuts his argument; in fact, it makes the opposite case. Of course, developers who want to build megamalls in light industrial designated land/zones chafe under carefully written community plans, but neither Kihei’s community plan nor county zoning played any role in the megamall outcome.

In a nutshell, in 1995, Kaonoulu Ranch petitioned the Hawaii state Land Use Commission (LUC) to change the categorization of 88 acres of its land located in Kihei for development into a 123-lot light industrial park. The LUC approved the change, ordering, per state law, that the land be developed as represented.

The ranch declined to develop the property and instead sold it to Maui Industrial Partners (MIP) in 2005, subject to the LUC order. Once MIP bought the land, it quietly began subdividing the property into a few large parcels for retail development. About five years later, MIP sold the land to a Texas developer who thereafter announced, to the surprise of the South Maui community, that it planned to build the largest shopping center in Maui County on the land – with the support of our mayor and planning director.

People who care about good planning and Kihei’s future, marginalized in Mr. DeLeon’s Viewpoint as “environmentalists” (job killers) and “literalists” (small-minded), brought the matter to the attention of the LUC, and after a four-day trial, with the county supporting the rogue development, the LUC found the owner in violation of its order.

Developing our communities thoughtfully, in accordance with good planning principles and the law, is something Mr. DeLeon and I agree upon. Changing the County Code as proposed by Mr. Couch will not achieve this end, nor will hysteria from the Realtors Association of Maui.

* Mark Hyde is president of South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth.

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