KAHULUI - A state Office of Planning official said that developers of two large retail centers and 250 affordable housing units in Kihei should have filed a motion with the state Land Use Commission to amend conditions placed on the parcel that was initially proposed as a light industrial park.
"This is a clearly different project than was initially proposed," planner Rodney Funakoshi told state land use commissioners Friday at the Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport hotel.
Funakoshi was one of the last witnesses in the evidentiary portion of the state LUC's ongoing "show cause" proceedings on whether the retail centers and housing development proposed by Eclipse Development Group of California are in compliance with 20 conditions imposed in 1995 when the panel granted a land reclassification from agricultural to urban to former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch for a light industrial development.
The evidentiary portion of the proceeding concluded Friday. Parties will have a little more than a month to file findings of fact and responses. A Jan. 24 meeting date has been scheduled to hear closing arguments from the parties and to allow for commissioners to deliberate.
During his testimony, Funakoshi, the planning program administrator for the office's Land Use Division, said that a condition that the LUC imposed in 1995 called for the petitioner to develop the property in substantial compliance with the representations made to the commission. He noted that there were no residential units proposed in the Kaonoulu plans and that there is no light industrial use planned by Eclipse in its current plans for the property.
In Thursday's hearing, it was revealed that Eclipse is now committed to having at least 125,000 square feet of space on 11.5 acres dedicated to a home-improvement-center-type tenant, such as The Home Depot. Funakoshi responded by saying that this new tack would not "be an improvement" to the proposed plans.
He said that a home improvement type of business is "retail in nature" and that 11.5 acres is just one-eighth of the 88 acres proposed for development.
During cross-examination, the attorney for the retail centers, Jonathan Steiner, asked Funakoshi if he was aware of the one-and-a-half acre Maui Electric Co. substation in the project, inferring another industrial use. Funakoshi said he knew about the substation.
Steiner then asked Funakoshi what percentage of the project needed to be in light industrial to comply with the 1995 conditions. Funakoshi replied that there was no exact proportion, to which Steiner asked: How is the landowner supposed to know if it is in compliance or not?
Steiner also asked Funakoshi what would happen if retail units were built and developers did not set up an oil separator or a buffer zone between single-family homes as called for by conditions in 1995. He was apparently inferring that the separator was a component of light industrial development but apparently not needed for the current retail and housing plans.
Funakoshi said it would not be a "violation."
At issue in the case is whether any of the LUC's conditions have been violated since the property changed hands and plans have shifted from a proposed 123-lot light industrial subdivision under former owner Kaonoulu Ranch to two large shopping centers totaling 700,000 square feet of retail space under Eclipse.
Also proposed on the site is an affordable housing project that Honua'ula Partners wants to build that would be tied to its master-planned luxury golf community of the same name above Wailea.
A challenge from community groups, South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele prompted the commission to take up the development in the context of the 1995 land use change and conditions.
Dick Mayer, a witness for the interveners and former Maui Community College geography and economics professor, who testified as an expert on economics and community planning, said that Kihei needs a light industrial area and that the current site is the best place for it.
He added that the new mall could take away from the "sense of place" that South Maui residents feel as they shop along South Kihei Road.
He said that if the industrial project use is kept, it would mean a lot more local businesses and local manufacturing, compared to a mall where businesses will be moving in, probably from the Mainland.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.