Kihei’s Overdevelopment Started in the 1970’s
In 1970, Maui County planning staff and a consultant jointly prepared the Kihei Civic
Development Plan to provide a long-range plan to guide development of the region through 1990.
Key components of the plan that have had a long-lasting affect on the Kihei area and Maui at large are the design of a linear oriented community dependant (sic) on a single roadway and the identification of Wailea as a potential major resort community. The plan proposed a significant amount of development, all feeding onto South Kihei Road, without an infrastructure grid system to support the induced large volume of traffic. This inadequate roadway system coupled with the establishment of a linear pattern of single-use commercial, residential, and hotel zoning across the entire region set the foundations for an automobile dependant (sic) region with transportation problems and urban sprawl conditions.
The problem with this plan was the all of the areas was determined to be “unused” and the planners failed to recognize the streams, gulches, and wetlands an natural areas worthy of preservation. There was no consideration to the mechanics of the watershed, and the necessity to set aside these key areas that control and mitigate flooding. Kihei was long known to the locals as being a place of floods, marshes, swamps, and wetlands. But the Maui County Planners back in 1970 treated this as an area ripe for exploitation, as a gold-rush, and a land-grab, and they took everything that could be taken and sold off for profit. All the land was sold off to speculators and developers. and the streams and gulches, watersheds, and wetlands were all sold to private owners.
Protecting the natural environment for both human and ecological purposes is a key challenge with rapid growth and development. Streams, rainforests, beaches, near shore waters, and native species are among Maui’s numerous natural resources that provide critical services and add to a high quality of life.
With the steadily increasing demand for housing, home prices have risen dramatically, out-pricing many local families and creating a pressing need for affordable housing.
Maui’s unique identity is in jeopardy if strategic steps are not taken to plan for this growth. The quality of life of Maui’s residents and the vitality of the visitor industry depend on long-range planning that balances growth with community and environmental needs.