LUC rules against malls in Kihei in dispute

KAHULUI — The state Land Use Commission on Thursday ruled that a current proposed retail center and housing development in north Kihei are not in compliance with conditions imposed on the property when its former owners received a land reclassification from the panel in 1995.

In light of the decision, developers Eclipse Development Group of California will need to wait to see what the commission decides is the next step for the project. A hearing to decide that was not immediately scheduled.

The 6-3 vote Thursday was purely on whether or not the current project met the conditions imposed by the LUC and not on the merits of the development. The LUC had granted former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch a land reclassification from agricultural to urban for a light industrial development nearly two decades ago.

Current plans by the new developer call for a retail center totaling 700,000 square feet of space and an affordable housing project that is tied to Honua’ula, a master planned luxury golf community of the same name above Wailea.

The developers’ attorneys argued that there was no limitation placed on the amount of retail that could be developed and that apartment housing is a permitted use in light industrial zoning. They added that commissioners back in 1995 were aware that the project could contain the retail and housing elements.

But the developers’ plans were challenged by South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth, Maui Tomorrow Foundation and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele. The interveners contended that there were violations of the original land reclassification conditions.

“We’re very excited by the ruling,” said the interveners’ attorney Tom Pierce. “We think that this ruing really is important. It protects the people’s right to know that a proposed project will be carried out substantially similar to the representations that were made to the LUC.”

Charlie Jencks, a representative for both projects, said he was “really disappointed in the conclusion reached by the commission.”

“It’s a definite set back for the economy… jobs,” he said. “It pushes back the development of affordable housing, possibly.”

For more on this story, see Friday’s Maui News.