Planning panel defers action on building material recycling facility
WAILUKU — The Maui Planning Commission was split Tuesday on a proposed construction materials recycling facility in South Maui, which some say would help handle future projects on island but that others think should be located elsewhere.
Commissioners deferred a decision until their next meeting, after motions to approve and deny the project both ended in 3-3 votes.
“The concept is great — eco-friendly, which is the movement that we’re going into,” commissioner Tina Gomes said Tuesday. “I just do not believe that the location is the proper location for this particular project.”
The proposed Hawaii Materials Recycling facility, which contractor Peter Sullivan is seeking a state Land Use Commission special permit for, would process construction and demolition wastes, such as concrete, rock and asphalt, that might otherwise be sent to the landfill. Materials would be crushed and turned into custom products, including landscape or wall rocks and topsoil for projects.
Metals, hazardous waste and appliances like washers and dryers would not be accepted. While it would mainly serve contractors, it also would be open to the public.
The facility would be located on 10 acres mauka of the Goodfellow Brothers Inc. baseyard and the Kihei Wastewater Reclamation Facility. The vacant land is part of a 2,175-acre parcel owned by Haleakala Ranch Co. and is occasionally used for cattle grazing.
Sullivan explained Wednesday that for the past 11 years, his company, P.B. Sullivan Construction, has been crushing and recycling rock on project sites. Sullivan looked for a place to do recycling but struggled to find a spot with land and water. Finally, Haleakala Ranch agreed to lease him land. Given the nearby facilities — the baseyard, the reclamation and composting facilities — Sullivan thought a recycling facility would fit the area well.
“With Chip DeCoite’s landfill closing (at Maalaea), I was trying to do something quickly so this stuff didn’t all get landfilled or become fugitive dumping in gulches in Haiku and out in the cane fields,” Sullivan said.
Consultant Rory Frampton said the new proposed facility would divert waste from the landfills and reduce the distance that contractors for South Maui projects need to travel to dispose of leftover materials.
But Gomes and commissioner Christian Tackett were hesitant about the location. Hale Mahaolu Ehiku, a senior living facility, is just across Piilani Highway, and the Maui Nui Golf Club is north of the proposed site. The commissioners worried about the increase in semitrucks on the road and hazardous silica dust from crushed concrete. Gomes also wondered why it had to be on agricultural land outside of the Maui Island Plan’s urban growth boundary.
“I definitely don’t want to set a precedent in future for other industrial projects to see that they can come and use agricultural lands,” Gomes said.
Planning Director Will Spence said that under the Maui County Code, “major utilities” such as Sullivan’s project can receive special use permits in agricultural districts. And while the land is zoned agricultural, the area is rated “E,” meaning it has the lowest potential for agriculture, Frampton said.
“Sometimes these uses are actually more appropriate located outside of urban areas,” he added.
The project also plans to use R-1 recycled water from the nearby reclamation facility to control dust.
Others had no problem with the site. Commissioner Richard Higashi pointed out that many construction projects were coming up in the South Maui area. Chairwoman Sandra Duvauchelle said the island has “been way behind the curve for years in recycling.”
On Maui, contractors have few places to take leftover industrial items. The construction and demolition landfill in Maalaea, which Sullivan said averaged 3,000 tons a month, stopped accepting materials in September. The county-owned Central Maui Landfill is expected to reach capacity at its current site by 2019, according to the county budget.
But in June, the Maui Planning Commission granted a request by T.J. Gomes Trucking Co. to start offering “asphalt, concrete and earthen material recycling, crushing and processing” at the Puunene Baseyard. Given their recent decision, commissioners weren’t sure if there was a need for Sullivan’s project.
T.J. Gomes Trucking Co. confirmed Wednesday that commissioner Tina Gomes is married to Keoni Gomes, who operates the company with his siblings and parents. Tina Gomes called for the motion to deny the project Tuesday, though Sullivan and Frampton declined to comment on whether they thought there was a conflict of interest. Tina Gomes could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, executive director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance that represents five construction unions statewide, said Tuesday that “there’s obviously a growing construction market.”
“But they need to show that this (project) is the right fit, that it’s the right location and also that the market is there for these materials,” Dos Santos-Tam said. “You can take in all the construction materials that you want, but if there’s no final use, it’s just going to sit there.”
Sullivan said he believes he and T.J. Gomes Trucking “are serving two different markets.” His project would use different equipment, create different products and meet the needs of a different area on Maui.
“There’s never been a good way to dispose of rocks coming out of any of these jobs in South Maui,” Sullivan said. “The diversion from the landfill is huge. But another thing (this facility) does is lessen the scar on the island. Every ton that we recycle lessens the tonnage coming out of the earth from the quarry operations.”
The commission will resume discussion on July 25.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.