Ruling forcing Goodfellow to ‘bench’ workers

Goodfellow Bros. has 30 employees “on the bench” and may have to sideline 70 more because a proposed large retail center and affordable housing project they were scheduled to work on was put on hold last week by the state Land Use Commission.

“There around 30 guys that are home right now. We were planning to roll them into the project,” said Chad Goodfellow, president of Goodfellow Bros. “We’ve got another 70 that are currently working on projects. We are very concerned we won’t have any work for them to roll into.”

Goodfellow Bros. is the general contractor for site work on California-based Eclipse Development Group’s 700,000-square-foot retail shopping outlet in north Kihei. Honua’ula Partners wants to build 250 affordable homes in conjunction with that project.

Last week, the commission ruled Eclipse and Honua’ula’s current project plans violate several panel-imposed conditions placed on the land in 1995, when the commission granted former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch a land reclassification from agricultural to urban. The ranch’s project called for a 123-lot light industrial development, which current developers say contained the possibility of retail stores.

The commission revisited the project after interveners prompted the panel to take up the current developments in the context of the 1995-approved land-use change and conditions.

A meeting will probably be held in a “month or two” to hold hearings on whether the parcel should revert to agriculture, said Daniel Orodenker, executive director of the state LUC.

Goodfellow said that the project was going to be 50 percent of the company’s work on Maui at least for this year.

“It’s a big piece of what we were planning on doing,” he said.

Goodfellow planned to use around half of its 225-member workforce on the project, not including another 50 or so subcontract workers, he added.

Irene Bowie, executive director of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, one of the interveners in the case, said that the foundation “feels that it’s unfortunate that Goodfellow has to lay people off.”

But she added that the “onus,” or burden, lies with the developers and its representative who should have notified the LUC of changes in project plans.

One of the original project’s conditions, now in violation by the current projects, was the annual reporting of the development’s status, she added, noting that at least four reports were missing.

Mark Hyde, executive director for South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth, another intervener, agreed with Bowie.

But in an email, he said: “No one wants to see job losses. However, jobs can be lost when projects are processed outside the law as is the case here.”

As the public found out with the banking system collapse five years ago, “when institutions take risks, not only are the businesses themselves harmed when risk comes home to roost, people’s lives are affected as well in the form of job losses, etc.,” Hyde said.

The other intervener in the case is Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele.

In addition to the proposed retail center and housing, the developments that would sit on 88-acres mauka of Piilani Highway would include a 1-million-gallon water tank. Piilani Highway improvements also are planned.

Goodfellow said that he hoped the commission and developers would work together to allow some preliminary work to be done while the current overall project is reviewed. He said work on the water tank and highway would benefit the county, not necessarily the developer. So, hopefully construction on those projects could move ahead soon, he said.

All three interveners are challenging the county, which has already issued grading permits for the project. The interveners maintain that the county should pull the permits in compliance with the LUC’s 1995 order.

The interveners are appealing the planning director’s decision not to enforce the conditions that require landowners to develop the project consistent with the original petitioner’s representations made in 1995.

A hearing on the matter before the Maui County Board of Variances and Appeals had been scheduled for Thursday, but attorneys agreed to postpone the hearing pending the LUC’s final determination on the South Maui developments, according to the interveners’ attorney Tom Pierce.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at