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Gas company plans new storage facility on Hana Highway

Hawaii Gas plans to build a new storage facility for additional propane tanks next to Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary and Bounty Music in Kahului. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Hawaii Gas is planning to build a new storage facility for propane tanks near Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary in Kahului, company officials said Tuesday.

The company paid $4.2 million in February 2016 for the 2.5-acre parcel along Hana Highway next to Bounty Music. The land previously was owned by Kanaha Professional Plaza LLC and was planned for the Maui Medical Plaza project — a six-story medical building and parking garage.

“As we look out, forecasting the development of Maui, we want to keep pace with growing demand,” General Manager Kyle Ginoza said. “For us, we need to be in heavy industrial land, and there’s very limited industrial lands near the harbor. We get our propane off-island so the close proximity to the harbor is very desirable.”

The state’s only franchised gas utility intends to file for a special management area major use permit in the next few months, which it hopes will be approved by the end of the year, Ginoza said. He said construction could take two to three years after acquiring permits.

In the meantime, the company applied for an SMA minor permit to clean the property of trash, debris and heavy brush, as well as install a security fence, he said. The area had some homeless people, who were moved off the property.

After the area was grubbed, the county Public Works Department Development Service asked Hawaii Gas to place material on the ground for dust and weed control. The company applied for an amendment to lay 3 inches of cold plane material, or recycled asphalt.

The material cost the company about $33,000, bumping the total project cost to $128,000, according to county documents.

Community members raised concerns about the material and called the company to ask if it is toxic or could threaten the nearby sanctuary. The 235-acre pond is home to a trio of endangered native birds, including the ae’o (Hawaiian stilt), the ‘alae (Hawaiian coot) and the koloa (Hawaiian duck). Nene and other endemic animals also have been observed at the pond.

Ginoza said the cold plane material, which was approved by the county, is safe and allows for drainage percolation without leaching into the underlying soils. He said it will be removed when construction begins.

“We’ve been cognizant of keeping the different county, state and federal officials aware and are meeting with different agencies to know what permits and approvals we need because it is a sensitive area,” he said. “It’s nice that the public is staying aware of things, but if there’s something we’re missing, please let me know. We’re not trying to do anything covertly at all.”

Ginoza, a former director of the county Department of Environmental Management, said the company is working closely with the county Planning Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the project. He added that the SMA process will involve many studies to ensure all impacts are mitigated.

Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean said the storage facility will have to be approved by the Maui Planning Commission, which could set conditions on the project. She noted that the SMA for the parcel’s prior project — the medical building — was approved by the commission in 2011.

Buyers for the heavy-industrial-zoned property have been sought since early 2015 after support for the medical office disappeared, officials have said. The property went into foreclosure and developers owed the county more than $100,000 in delinquent property taxes.

The sale of the property was used to pay delinquent taxes, interest and penalties, officials have said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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