Restaurant owners have worked openly with county and the public

Our family has been on Maui for more than 30 years, and many people know us from farming or from teaching at Doris Todd. For many years, we have had a dream to open a restaurant, and we are very excited to open Rock & Brews Restaurant in Paia.

We have hired an all-Maui team of design and engineering professionals to ensure that the restaurant will be calibrated to be part of the character of Paia. We have openly worked with the County of Maui and filed for all of the necessary land-use approvals, including building permit, special management area assessment application and a liquor license. Claims that our project avoided public review (Viewpoint, Nov. 8) and there has been no public involvement or discussion are simply incorrect.

As part of our SMA permit review, we went to the county Urban Design Review Board. This meeting was a public forum with public testimony. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that R&B’s design is consistent with the Paia-Haiku Country Town Design Guidelines. After thorough discussion, board members unanimously recommended approval of the project.

Next we appeared before the Maui Liquor Commission seeking a liquor license. A legal notice was published in The Maui News and meeting notices were sent to all owners located within 500 feet of the project to inform the public of this meeting. Several concerned neighbors from the Paia community attended the meeting and provided testimony expressing their concerns about the potential for negative impacts caused by R&B, such as excessive noise from music and patrons. All of these issues were resolved.

Our project site has been in use as a restaurant for many years. We’re not creating a new use. In fact, R&B’s maximum occupancy will represent a decrease from the previous occupancy of Jacques Bistro. We feel the project will not have any cumulative adverse impacts upon the surrounding environment and will not have an impact upon the fully urbanized setting of Paia town. The project is included within the Paia Town Center Master Plan, which went through an extensive environmental review process. Our project site was included in all of the previous analyses of impacts on infrastructure, utilities, traffic, parking and archaeological and historical resources.

One of the requirements of the SMA minor permit is that valuation of the project be less than $500,000. The project, including demolition, will be less than the $500,000. Our value of construction is based on actual bids received from a licensed contractor. Our costs are kept down by using a prefabricated steel structure for framing and working within the confines of a previously existing restaurant, thus important infrastructure and utilities are already in place.

Unfortunately, a small group of individuals have appealed our SMA minor permit, which was issued by the Planning Department, claiming this decision has deprived Maui’s citizens of a public review process. They are disregarding the fact that the UDRB reviewed our project in a public forum. They’re not acknowledging nor respecting the Liquor Commission’s public review and notification process, listening to the concerns of the neighboring residents.

Additionally, a few months ago, we voluntarily held an informational community meeting at the Paia Community Center. We published notice of this meeting in The Maui News and posted a large banner on the restaurant site to encourage the community to attend.

The appellants would like our project to endure an unnecessary SMA major review simply because our product is not in keeping with their vision of Paia. We have met with many friends and families who are from Paia and from this island who feel differently. We were entitled to an administrative approval and are anxious to open our restaurant and welcome the community that chooses to visit us.

Finally, we ask the appellants to allow the planning director, his staff and the Maui Planning Commission to continue a very important job, which is focusing on comprehensive reviews on significant projects worthy of an SMA major use permits. Nonetheless, we are looking forward to resolving this expeditiously so we can focus on being a productive business member of the Paia community and a place that serves the residents well.

* Mark and Chrystie Blietz are owners and founding partners of Rock & Brews Restaurant. They live in Haiku.