Permit approved for car rental facility

WAILUKU – The proposed $220 million consolidated car rental facility for Kahului Airport moved one step closer to construction with the Maui Planning Commission approving a special management area use permit for the facility Tuesday.

State officials hope to begin construction in March or April after receiving additional approvals; a county planner said that the project will have an 18-month construction period.

“I’m very excited about our new home,” said Tanya Kapaku, airport manager of Avis Budget Group, in testimony before the commission.

The 3-story facility is planned for 16.7 acres southwest of the current main public parking lot and will provide 4,200 parking stalls for rental cars and airport workers. The structure also will house seven car rental companies and will be dug into the ground. Only the second and half of the third level will be visible.

Several members of the public testified in favor of the facility.

“It’s really difficult for our employees to find parking spaces,” said Kapaku, who has been with the company for 36 years. “If you work the morning shift you’re OK, but the night shift still has morning and midshift workers. (Workers from) rent-a-cars, airlines, state workers and vendors all park there.”

Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau, said that the new facility will boost visitors’ overall experiences at the airport, which currently leaves “something to be desired.”

Of the 2.8 million people who pass through Kahului Airport annually, 2.3 million are visitors, based on state Department of Transportation statistics, she said.

“This project will improve the arrival and departure experience for the visitor and provide a better experience for our residents frequenting the airport as well,” she said.

In a presentation, state consultants described the facility to the planning commission. There will be customer vehicle drop-off and pickup areas; maintenance areas for gas pumps, car washing and light maintenance; a service center for higher level auto repairs; and a rental car storage area in the basement.

The design of the structure was inspired by 1800s plantation style architecture found in Wailuku and Lahaina, including a double-pitched roof in the design of Charles William Dickey, who designed many landmark buildings in the community.

The project also includes a single-track, electrical tram system that extends from the facility to the baggage claim area. The 1,735-foot-long tram will have three stops and will run on the terminal-facing side of the public parking area.

In other matters Tuesday, the commission acknowledged the filing of an appeal by Wailuku attorney Isaac Hall, who represents the Maui Tomorrow Foundation and a group of Paia residents, in the Rock & Brews restaurant project in Paia.

In July, Hall filed an appeal challenging Planning Director Will Spence’s decision to grant the restaurant project in Paia a minor special management area permit. Projects under $500,000 are allowed an administrative decision and do not have to go before the planning commission.

The developers say – and a Public Works Department investigation found – that the cost of the project comes in under the $500,000 threshold.

Hall’s appeal contests the cost of the project and the decision to circumvent public review by the commission.

On Oct. 17, Hall submitted another appeal citing, among other issues, the lack of notice over the restaurant developers’ submission and Spence’s approval of an amendment to the SMA minor permit.

The application of “additional work” involved demolition of a restroom and walk-in cooler area due to termite damage and substandard construction.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at