By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau
WAILUKU, Maui Alarmed by a new wave of development along Maui's shoreline, a group of residents have formed a land trust organization aimed at preserving coastal open space and beach access.
The Maui Coastal Preservation Trust has been in the planning stages for six months and has emerged with a diverse executive committee that includes environmentalists and developers, land planners, financial experts and representatives of major landowners.
"We fully expect to hit the ground running, said Wailuku attorney Tom Pierce, president of the trust.
"With community support, we expect to play an important role in preserving Maui's coastal areas for future generations to enjoy."
The idea of a coastal land trust was sparked more than a year ago by development plans for Palauea Beach, a pristine shore near the South Maui resort of Wailea. Community members campaigned to save the area from luxury home development, and Maui County last year bought two of the nine large lots fronting the beach.
With the economy heating up, other oceanfront lands are either being considered for development or are already earmarked for it, including properties in Makena, Wailea, Olowalu, Kaanapali and Mahinahina.
Last summer, a survey by the Trust for Public Land found that nearly 80 percent of Mauis residents want more county spending on land, air and water protection, and most of those wanted it increased substantially.
Aided by grants from the Trust for Public Lands and the Environmental Support Center, more than 40 people joined a land trust planning effort that featured focus groups discussing strategies for preserving natural coastal areas.
Pierce said he was impressed with the consensus that emerged.
"Everyone agreed that preserving our coastal lands as open space made sense, he said. "We concluded a land trust would provide the best mechanism for accomplishing that goal.
The organization plans to use many of the tools employed by land trusts across the country to preserve open space and curb urban sprawl, including accepting gifts of land, creating conservation easements, purchasing lands and acting as land stewards.
Many of the strategies result in substantial tax benefit to the landowners.
The use of conservation easements, in particular, is growing nationally, with more than 5 million acres tagged with such protection. Conservation easements are legal agreements between property owners and land trusts or government agencies that place permanent restrictions on use of the land to protect conservation values.
While some easements are made to prevent development, others protect wildlife habitat or traditional land uses such as farming.
The federal Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 allows landowners to write off nearly 40 percent of the value of the land with conservation easements.
Maui Coastal Preservation Trust executive committee members include Mercer "Chubby Vicens of A&B Properties Inc., Lucienne de Naie of the Sierra Club Maui Group and former county public works chief Charles Jencks, who now works for Maui Land & Pineapple Co.
Another committee member, Claire Cappelle, the Maui liaison of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said shes excited about the groups prospects for success, considering the varied makeup of the board.
As for her own involvement, she said that while the sanctuary focuses on whales and their habitat, theres also a concern about the effects of land development on the sea.
Additionally, she wants to preserve open space for children and for future generations.
"Maybe theyll be able to sit in the open space and watch the whales, she said.
The group is offering charter memberships for a minimum donation of $100 and seeking volunteers with expertise in land use planning and management, fund-raising, membership development, graphic design and bookkeeping.
For details, call Susan Bradford at (808) 874-5351 or contact Linda Nelson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 330731, Kahului, HI 96733.
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