WAILUKU - What most would consider a relatively modest redevelopment of the 94-year-old Hanzawa's Variety Store in Haiku has stirred up some significant concerns and emotions both for and against the 3.6-acre project - as well as a late compromise.
The result Wednesday before the Maui County Council's Land Use Committee was a nascent plan to eliminate Hanzawa's' controversial proposed separate building, with space for three businesses, in exchange for doubling the size of Hanzawa's existing store to 6,344 square feet.
Committee Chairwoman Gladys Baisa recessed the meeting until 9 a.m. Monday in order to give people time to mull over the new idea and the store owners to refine it. The owners of Hanzawa Store will need at least seven votes to obtain land use changes due to a successful petition effort by opponents.
The owners of Hanzawa’s Variety Store are seeking land-use changes to expand their Haiku business but have run into opposition from members of the community. Owners Sandy and Matt Daniells have agreed to a new plan that would double the size of their existing store and eliminate a separate building.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Development consultant William Spence said that the owners, Sandy and Matt Daniells, would support the new deal.
"What we've been trying to do is make a small mom-and-pop store viable," Spence said. "We're trying to preserve an old part of Maui."
The Daniellses have said they need the expansion "to compete in this Big Box economy," referring to large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco.
Opponents fear that the store plans will alter the character of the rural community.
One of the questions that must be considered by county attorneys before the next meeting is whether the changes are substantial enough to start the entire process over from the beginning. That issue prompted a heated exchange that appeared to highlight the sensitive nature of the proposed expansion.
Near the meeting's end, Wailuku attorney and Haiku resident Isaac Hall shouted his legal opinion to the committee and counsel from the audience.
Minutes later, after the meeting concluded about 5 p.m., Hall walked down into an area off-limits to the public and was ordered repeatedly by Deputy Corporation Counsel James Giroux to leave immediately.
After a crowd of county employees quickly gathered on the chamber floor, Hall eventually walked away.
The five-year-old plan to expand the existing 3,172-square-foot grocery store at 1833 Kaupakalua Road has caused fissures in this tight-knit rural community.
For the plans to move forward, the Land Use Committee, which comprises of the entire council, must pass bills that would amend the state land use classification from agricultural to urban and rural and county zoning from interim to business district and rural.
What is now the Daniellses' old plan called for an 800-square-foot expansion of the existing store as well as the construction of a commercial building next door with space for three businesses. The building would total 3,475 square feet with 20 parking spaces on a 1.7-acre lot. The small businesses would fit the area, such as a bank, feed store, hair salon, coffee shop or veterinary office, Spence said.
Wednesday's compromise would shear off about 1,000 square feet from the proposed project.
"If we can double the size of the store, we can live with that," said Spence, who added they'd likely include space for other businesses in the added space.
Whether that issue will matter or not in the end is unknown, since it's unclear how individual council members will vote.
However, Council Member Wayne Nishiki said that doubling the store is "more than I wanted to see as a compromise."
He and Council Member Mike Victorino both said they want to hear from the residents again.
As for what will be inside the store and if people are worried about a massage parlor - as one testifier said - Spence said that the Daniellses would be happy to place conditions prohibiting businesses such as a laundromat, chain fast-food restaurant or bar.
"We're trying to make sure obnoxious uses don't come in there," Spence said.
The family also is asking for land-use changes for 1.9 acres it proposes to subdivide into two residential lots to sell to build single-family homes. And that would remain in the new plan, council members said.
The debate in this small rural community has often turned unseemly, with both sides accusing the other of using intimidation and insults. Haiku residents have expressed loyalty to the store and support for the project, but others have raised concerns about traffic and development in the rural area.
During public testimony earlier in the meeting, Hall had accused the Daniellses of trying to create "a new urban core in Haiku." He said the proposal does not fit within the county's Haiku Community Plan and subdivision ordinance.
"It would be illegal legislation," Hall said if council members support plan.
No community plan amendment would be required, said Planning Department Director Jeffrey Hunt.
"We support the store. It's a wonderful store, but we oppose the building of the stores," said neighbor Matthew Morasco.
He and others said that the traffic by the store, which is on the corner of Kaupakalua and Awalau roads, is already horrible.
Proponents have said that the Daniellses already have addressed congestion concerns, and that the modest buildings will provide much-needed jobs.
Morasco said he and his wife and other neighbors collected 93 signatures for a petition opposing the project and submitted it to the county Planning Department.
According to the county code, if 40 percent of landowners within 500 feet of the property file a petition opposing a land use change a supermajority is required to approve the measure.
The opponents met that requirement, said senior planner Paul Fasi, which means at least seven of nine council votes will be required for the land-use changes to pass the Maui County Council.
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.