Spreckelsville residents appeal runway opinion

Plans for resurfacing Kahului Airport’s main runway would lead to late-night jet takeoffs from the airport’s secondary runway and cause “serious and substantial” noise impacts on Spreckelsville residents, according to their attorney.

Last month, Wailuku attorney Isaac Hall submitted a notice of an appeal to the Maui Planning Commission. It seeks to overturn the Aug. 14 determination by Planning Director Will Spence that the runway repair project is exempt from a requirement to get a special management area permit.

According to the appeal, Spence maintained that the project was exempt from an SMA permit because the runway repair “constitutes ‘nonstructural improvements to existing commercial structures.’ ”

Hall said the exemption is erroneous because “this exemption was not intended to be applicable to a runway resurfacing project costing $5 million.”

In an email Tuesday afternoon, Spence said: “The exemption was granted in accordance with all applicable laws, including the special management area rules for the Maui Planning Commission and the Coastal Zone Management Act.”

Hall appealed the planning director’s waiver of the SMA permit for the project on behalf of Spreckelsville residents James Bendon, April Nims and Peter Siracusa of Laulea Place; and Robert and Margaret Kaplan and Cyrus Monroe of Cane Place.

Repair work to Kahului’s main 7,000-foot runway, 2-20, would close it from midnight to 8 a.m. and move night flights for at least 10 weeks to runway 5-23, according to the appeal. That would mean jet aircraft would be taking off over the Spreckelsville residents, awakening them from sleep “and deprive them of the sleep required for good health,” according to the appeal.

Hall is asking the Maui Planning Commission to determine that the SMA exemption “is invalid, void and of no force or effect.”

“Any development or construction based upon this illegal exemption must cease, and the project site restored to its original condition prior to the issuance of this illegal exemption. Penalties and fines must be imposed, as allowed by law,” the appeal says.

An official notice of the SMA exemption appeal was on the Maui Planning Commission’s agenda Tuesday. No action was taken.

In an email Wednesday afternoon, DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the department’s Airports Division has been working with a community representative to address nearby residents’ concerns about work on runway 2-20, which she called “a vital link to the island for residents, visitors and goods that are flown in.”

The Airports Division “continues to welcome discussions with the affected residents,” she said. “Although we cannot completely stop all of the noise associated with this project, we are working to create a balance between the construction that needs to be done to ensure a safe, working runway and neighbors’ concerns,” Sluyter said.

In June, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $6 million – $4.75 million for construction and $1.25 million for environmental impact statement studies – for work to repave Kahului Airport’s main runway, 2-20.

Airport officials called the repaving work a “short-term fix” to allow operations to continue running smoothly at Kahului Airport.

Kahului’s main runway was built in 1942 and has had asphalt overlays five times – in 1969, 1972, 1981, 1995 and 2000. In 2006, 2 inches were milled from the runway’s surface and filled. The current project calls for replacing 3 inches from the runway surface, work that’s expected to extend the runway’s life for another five to 10 years.

In 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the Department of Transportation that federal funds would no longer be available for ongoing piecemeal patching of the runway. A 2011 study of three repair options found that the runway was deteriorating with cracks, and there was an increase in foreign object debris that could severely damage aircraft.

Also, patchwork repairs were costing the state $1 million per year.

Work has begun on an environmental impact statement for a more permanent fix to the airport runway.

Freight and cargo carriers like Aloha Air Cargo and UPS Inc. usually land in the early-morning hours, transportation officials have said, adding that those carriers’ flights would be rescheduled during construction.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.