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Company has been taking ‘materials’ for decades

Council panel reviewing bills on sand mining

An official from Maui Lani Partners said Monday that the company has been “taking material off-site since 1994” and that the county’s warning to stop grading and excavating sand two months ago “was the first time we were made aware there was a notice of warning on a potential violation on the property.”

Daren Suzuki of Maui Lani Partners told the Maui County Council Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee on Monday that the company has been awaiting clarification from the county on what actually is allowed on its property. The county sent notices to landowner Maui Lani Partners and Honolulu contractor Honolulu Construction & Draying to halt its grading work over permitting issues related to the removal and exporting of sand on a Maui Lani property adjacent to Maui Lani Parkway and west of The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course.

Planning Director William Spence told the committee that county attorneys are working on a response to Maui Lani Partners.

Suzuki and Leiane Paci, representing Maui Lani Partners, addressed the committee, which is reviewing bills that could include a two-year moratorium on sand mining, requiring permits for sand mining in specified areas and other ways to “protect, preserve and regulate the use of inland sand.”

The bills were triggered by the Maui Lani grading and sand excavation issues, which led the county to issue the notice of warning. The committee deferred action Monday with continued hearings possible at the panel’s next meeting July 17.

In April, Honolulu TV news station KHON2 reported that HC&D was hired by Maui Lani Partners to perform grading work on a Central Maui property, with excess sand shipped to Oahu. Sand excavation is legal, but the story prompted the administration of Mayor Alan Arakawa to look into the matter. The report also triggered local protests.

Arakawa told the council that a 2006 study said Maui had a five- to seven-year availability of inland dune sand. Community members expressed concerns about proper archaeological monitoring during sand removal and the possibility of unearthing ancient burials and bones.

Maui Lani Partners and the Planning Department agree that the project’s grading permits were issued properly, but the excavation and exporting of “high quality sand for making concrete and other purposes meets the definition of a ‘resource extraction,’ ” which county officials said may require either a special or conditional use permit.

Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean said Monday that the Planning Department believes a conditional permit is needed because a resource extraction is not allowed under zoning requirements.

On May 1, HC&D stopped moving and transporting sand after the company and Maui Lani Partners received a county notice to correct violations. HC&D has said the grading was in compliance with a county permit.

As Maui Lani Partners and the county work out the permitting issue, community groups, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, weighed in against the sand removal.

OHA’s Board of Trustees last week adopted a motion calling upon Maui Lani Partners to stop the work to allow for:

• The Planning Department to determine if sand extraction violates the Maui zoning code.

• The county Public Works Department to determine if revocation or suspension of Maui Lani’s Phase IX grading permit is appropriate.

• The State Historic Preservation Department and the Maui and Lanai Islands Burial Council to properly investigate the discovery of burials and whether historic preservation laws and conditions have been fully complied with and enforced.

HC&D has previously said that it “complies with all laws governing the proper care of ancient remains that may be found,” though some in the community have questioned whether there has been an archaeological monitor observing the work.

Committee Chairwoman Elle Cochran asked Suzuki if there was any sand being removed to an off-site area at the end of June.

“As far as I know, no movement of sand off-site the last few weeks,” he answered.

He noted that a monitor is required during fresh excavation but material already excavated and left on site in general would not require a monitor. There could be some spot monitoring when dealing with material already excavated.

Suzuki and Paci said Maui Lani Partners works with the State Historic Planning Division and Archaeological Services Hawaii and has hired a cultural adviser, Leslie Kuloloio, who has been onboard since 1993, though such an adviser is not required. All parties combine to develop an archaeological monitoring plan.

Noting that that state law prevents anyone for desecrating burials, Suzuki said Maui Lani Partners has been following the law.

Five burials have been found in the current grading area, with two preserved in place with fencing, Paci said. Remains that are previously disturbed, scattered or difficult to determine original location may not be preserved in place.

At Monday’s meeting, more than 10 testifiers spoke out against the sand excavation and removal.

“I’m simply outraged,” said Johanna Kamaunu, a former Maui Lanai Burial Council member who was speaking on behalf of herself. “It should be a personal matter for all of us.”

The sand extraction may be allowed by law but is not considered appropriate by those protecting the iwi, or bones, of ancestors, she said. The “business side” should get out of the way, she said, complaining that there is not enough oversight by governmental entities.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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