WAILUKU - A scaled-down Maui Lani Center got its phase two project district approval from the Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday, just barely. And it still is being challenged in Circuit Court.
For more than five years, HRT Ltd. has been wrestling with issues of noise, traffic, smells and congestion, and most of those issues have been mitigated.
But the question of ancient burials remains, although the Maui-Lanai Islands Burial Council approved a mitigation plan.
Claire Apana speaks on behalf of her kupuna (ancestors) as she testifies in opposition to plans for the Maui Lani Center during a Tuesday meeting of the Maui Planning Commission in Wailuku. She also has sued in 2nd Circuit Court to stall the project.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The Maui Lani Center lot is planned for the corner of Kaahumanu Avenue and Maui Lani Parkway. Its neighbors will include Baldwin High School and Kaiser Permanente. The project has been scaled down from its original 128,000 square feet of leasable area on 13 acres to 105,000 square feet. Safeway remains an anchor tenant, but a second anchor tenant is no longer included in the plans.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Hundreds of burials have been found in archaeological surveys of the property, and since the land is sandy, further digging could find more.
Claire Apana, who has led the informal group raising concerns about the project, said she had finally gone to 2nd Circuit Court in order to get a hearing.
When Planning Commission member Ward Mardfin asked her if there was any way to satisfy her about burials while still allowing for a shopping center, she said: "In my understanding, if there is to be such a center, there will be space for it. You will not find concentrations of iwi, of bones under it."
Apana, who lives nearby, said she was following the instructions of her ancestors.
Lucienne de Naie, supporting her, noted that her family was Catholic and also paid attention to spirits and asked, "Why do we invite people into our schools to clear the spirits?"
Planning Commission member Jack Freitas said a Native Hawaiian he knew had once told him "the land is for the living, not for the dead," after paying due respect to burials.
Apana told him, "they (the kupuna of that area) have given a plan that no one wants to talk about, to be with our kupuna."
Stephanie Ohigashi, who had worked to have the designs modified, especially by keeping all but local traffic off Kanani Street, said many revisions have been made over the years, and "the applicant has gone above and beyond the call of duty to reduce the footprint" and make other changes.
The original design called for a gross leasable area of about 128,000 square feet on 13 acres, right across from Baldwin High School, with Safeway as a main tenant and a smaller (unnamed) second anchor.
The latest design is down to about 105,000 square feet, and the second anchor has disappeared.
New features are "outdoor gathering areas," where people can take meals purchased at Safeway's deli or from any of several snack businesses expected to be tenants.
A proposed gas station is gone, and the loading area for Safeway will now be under roof and enclosed on three sides, primarily to constrain sound.
The access to Kaahumanu Avenue has been worked out to give Kanani users an exit without causing collisions with drivers coming down Kaahumanu and wanting to turn into the center.
Planning Commission member Kent Hiranaga remained skeptical of the "bulb-out" raised device that the state Department of Transportation has insisted on to keep the traffic streams separate.
He urged making it easily removable, in case it doesn't work out.
A traffic signal on Maui Lani Parkway will be installed along with the center, which will be before traffic flows justify it. But, when Maui Lani Parkway is eventually directly linked to Kuihelani Highway, traffic is expected to pick up.
HRT will make up to $50,000 available for pedestrian and traffic circulation solutions at Baldwin High.
Architect Lloyd Sueda said HRT could not solve all the school's traffic problems, but it makes sense, since contractors will be on hand, to pitch in and address some of them.
Planning Commission member Warren Shibuya, seconded by Chairman Jonathan Starr, pressed for not just energy conservation (promised by HRT) but for energy generation on-site.
Planning Director Will Spence asked to soften a proposed condition to require a study of using photovoltaics, but he cautioned against trying to impose a blanket rule.
"It gets cloudy in Wailuku," he said.
However, when it came time to vote, the issue that divided the commission, 5-3, was the burials, known and only suspected.
Mardfin, Penny Wakida and Lori Sablas voted no, wanting more time or more mitigation of burials.
Freitas, Hiranaga, Orlando Tagorda, Donna Domingo and Shibuya voted in favor. (The chairman does not usually vote on the commission, unless his vote is needed to break a tie or get to the five votes necessary to take action.)
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.