WAILUKU - Maui Tomorrow Foundation and the Maalaea Community Association have sued in 2nd Circuit Court to declare the final environmental impact statement for the Ohana Kai Village affordable housing project inadequate and out of date.
The county Department of Housing and Human Concerns is the accepting agency for the environmental review and is named as a defendant.
Its new director, Jo-Ann Ridao, who was the department's deputy director when the document was accepted as final, said she had been advised by the county Department of the Corporation Counsel not to comment until the county's formal, written response is entered in court.
A motorist on Honoapiilani Highway passes the site of the proposed Ohana Kai Village near Maalaea on Saturday afternoon.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
On Thursday, Ohana Kai developer Jesse Spencer said he is planning to ask for a 30-day extension of the deadline for his response to the suit. He also intends to ask the county to assume the defense.
"The reason I feel that way is that every question the county has asked over the past three or four years I have answered every one of their concerns," he said.
Although his land has been designated as a project district since 1998, the administration of former Mayor Charmaine Tavares did not support including Ohana Kai in the revised county General Plan.
As an affordable project, it is eligible for treatment as a fast-track housing development, meaning it would bypass state and county land use laws and regulations, if approved by the Maui County Council.
However, attorney Isaac Hall, representing Maui Tomorrow and the community association, writes that fast-tracking "was never intended to undermine the mandate that it is first necessary to take a hard, sober and complete look at the environmental impacts."
The plaintiffs allege that the environmental review is deficient in a number of ways:
* That it does not acknowledge that a major new urban core far from other urban areas can cause adverse impacts. (Spencer said the county "did not spend one cent" on infrastructure for his Wailuku Gardens affordable project, and it won't for Ohana Kai Village either.)
* That prime agricultural land would be lost. (Spencer said he would encourage "victory gardens" on the house lots.)
* That the impacts of the wastewater treatment plant and injection wells were never addressed. (Spencer said he won't need to use injection wells until the project passes 600 or 700 residences, and would not need them at all if he can use adjacent state land to spread treated effluent. He has had discussions with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, but there is no agreement, he said.)
* That the drinking water sources may become saline. (Spencer said his development has three wells, and they have been tested as satisfactory by a private company and lengthy tests to become certified by the state Department of Health are under way.)
* That the traffic report is inadequate and presents impossible mitigation measures. The plaintiffs say it would require elimination of the commercial buildings, such as Carl's Jr., makai of the highway. (Spencer said the contention is erroneous. He said he has plenty of land between the mauka boundary of Honoapiilani Highway and the lower boundary of his project.)
Hall contends that the environmental study should be completely revised, and that the public comment period should be reopened.
The suit asks the court to declare the acceptance void because the final environmental impact statement did not meet the criteria required, and to enjoin the defendants to either abandon the project or prepare an adequate EIS.
(Besides Spencer's MVI LLC and the county, the suit names the Land Use Commission as a defendant because it would be involved in issuing any permits that would allow Ohana Kai to go forward.)
It also asks for a temporary injunction to stop Spencer from working on retention basins intended to capture the runoff from the development, which it calls illegal.
Spencer said he has permits for these and has completed two of 16 basins. According to him, the basins would answer one of the objections of the plaintiffs, who allege that runoff would impact the downhill area and the ocean. Instead, he said, he would intercept all the runoff, and that the two completed basins already protected Maalaea "from a couple of million gallons" of runoff in the recent rainstorm.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.