Land for proposed Kihei development revisited

Mixed-use project eyes 75-acre parcel located mauka of Piilani Highway

Developer representative Charlie Jencks gives state Land Use Commission members a tour of the proposed Pi‘ilani Promenade on Thursday morning in north Kihei. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Construction on the Pi’ilani Promenade, which includes apartment units and light industrial and commercial businesses on the site of a formerly proposed shopping mall in Kihei, could begin by next year, a developer’s representative said Thursday.

Sarofim Realty Advisors of Dallas is seeking to build 226 apartment units — 25 percent affordably priced — along with light industrial, business and commercial uses on about 75 acres mauka of the intersection of Kaonoulu Road and Piilani Highway. It is bordered by the Kihei Commercial Center to the north, Kulanihakoi Gulch to the south, Piilani Highway to the west and ranch land to the east.

Gone are plans for a 700,000 square foot outlet center and shopping mall as proposed by former developer Eclipse Development Group, which is no longer affiliated with the project.

According to a draft environmental impact statement released in August 2014, Sarofim also plans a 2-acre park and land for a Maui Electric Co. substation, a 1 million gallon water tank for project and South Maui use, pedestrian and bicycle pathways and road-widening and improvements to the intersection of Piilani Highway at Kaonoulu Street.

Currently, Sarofim is about ready to release its environmental impact statement for the project in the next “few weeks,” said Charlie Jencks, the Maui-based developer’s representative during a site visit Thursday morning by the state Land Use Commission.

State Land Use Commission members and other attendees of Thursday’s site visit of the Pi‘ilani Promenade walk past a stack of drainage culverts, which have been stored on the site for years, ever since the previously proposed project was scrapped. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

After its release, the public then will have 30 days to weigh in on the study, with the LUC meeting to deliberate on the EIS probably in May, Jencks said.

If the EIS is accepted, Sarofim will present a motion to the LUC to amend a 1995 decision and order, where the panel conditionally granted a previous landowner, Kaonoulu Ranch, a reclassification of the land from agriculture to urban. Jencks said the motion will reflect the needs of the proposed project.

The previous incarnation of the plans for site, dubbed the “megamalls,” faced a challenge from interveners Maui Tomorrow Foundation, South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele. Opponents of the project prevailed in 2013, when the LUC ruled that the shopping mall plan failed to meet conditions set in 1995 when the commission reclassified the land from agricultural to urban.

Before the commission could issue a formal decision and order, the developers requested time to change their plans. The LUC granted the request.

The delay allowed the developers to prepare the environmental impact statement that Sarofim currently is working on. As a condition of allowing more time to amend the project, the LUC ordered that no development or work would be allowed on the site.

Lahaina’s Vicky Kaluna-Palafox of Aha Moku o Lahaina chants a Hawaiian pule during Thursday’s state Land Use Commission site visit of the Pi‘ilani Promenade. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The site visit Thursday was meant to allow current LUC members to familiarize themselves with the site because many of the members who voted for the denial of the previous project are no longer on the panel.

Only members were permitted to ask questions of developers and staff members. These questions ranged from drainage to the possibility of endangered or threatened plants or animals on the site.

Seeing at least one unnamed gulch during the visit, commissioner Nancy Cabral asked Jencks what would happen to the water coming from the mountains. Jencks replied that county laws require that water flows cannot be greater after construction than before construction and that adequate drainage will be put in place. The developers will have open detention basins and underground retention basins.

A couple of commissioners asked about archaeological sites and endangered plants or animals in the area. Jencks said that a lot of the answers will be in the EIS and that he couldn’t answer the questions thoroughly Thursday. He did say that a previous study did not note any critical habitats in the area, including those for the Hawaiian hoary bat.

Commissioner Aaron Mahi said that the area is ideal for burrows for the pueo or Hawaiian owl and other animals.

During the site visit, Vicky Kaluna-Palafox of Aha Moku o Lahaina and Basil Oshiro, who is one of the Kula district representatives for Aha Moku o Maui, asked the commission if they could offer a Hawaiian pule or prayer. Commission Vice Chairman Jonathan Scheuer said the LUC could not conduct a prayer, but allowed the community members the opportunity to perform their pule.

After chanting, Kaluna-Palafox said she wasn’t trying to interrupt the “aura” of what was going on at the meeting.

She said the chant was to protect those at the visit and to help in their decision-making.

During a break, Oshiro said he was concerned about pueo that he says live in the area, particularly in the gulches. He pulled out a photograph showing what looked like bird droppings on rocks in the area. He also is concerned about flooding on the proposed site.

About 30 other people, including county officials, those affiliated with the project, and opponents of the previous plans, joined the site visit.

In response to a question by a commissioner, Jencks said that only some grading and laying of gravel have been done on the site. Sarofim bought equipment left over from the original project, including culverts, water pipes and gate valves. The items, worth about $3.5 million, are currently on-site.

At the northeastern end of the property is a parcel owned by Honua’ula Partners, which is planning to build 250 affordable housing units. The housing project is a requirement of the Honua’ula master-planned luxury golf community.

The Honua’ula project is not tied to Pi’ilani Promenade, but the project is factored into the impacts to the area as part of the EIS, Jencks said.

Pi’ilani Promenade plans include construction of a portion of the proposed Kihei-Upcountry highway and improvements to the Kaonoulu Road-Piilani Highway intersection.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at