Kihei development’s EIS rejected by state Land Use Commission

Panel found fault not with the project, but that EIS did not show evidence of impacts

KAHULUI — State Land Use Commission members rejected by a 6-0 vote Thursday a final environmental impact statement for the Pi’ilani Promenade project, but the panel’s action didn’t necessarily put an end to the development proposed for 75 acres in north Kihei.

Owners’ representative Charlie Jencks said that while commissioners expressed that there’s “nothing wrong with the project” itself, more work needed to be done to study its overall cumulative impacts in South Maui, archaeological issues and traffic and cultural impacts.

Jencks said that the commission also wanted to see a document that encompasses the entire project — the project by Pi’ilani Promenade North and South (Sarofim Realty Advisors) and the Honua’ula development, which proposes to build 250 affordable homes as its workforce housing requirement.

The commission’s action will require a discussion by the different owners to determine how to proceed, he said.

“We’re going to have to regroup and take another run at it with a comprehensive document,” Jencks said.

Attorney Tom Pierce, representing the interveners, said: “We’re very pleased that the commission has carefully looked at the law associated with the adequacy of EISes.”

It was clear the commission members wanted to carefully follow procedures before accepting the environmental document, he said.

Commissioners were concerned that, among other things, “the cultural process was not sufficient,” cumulative impacts were not fully dealt with and a traffic impact analysis was lacking, Pierce said.

He added that there was discussion of “the fact that there had not been an adequate treatment for the need or lack thereof of a community plan amendment for the Kihei Makena Community Plan,” and there was a lack of information about the impacts of building more retail development mauka of Piilani Highway and how that would affect other projects.

The Pi’ilani Promenade plans call for building 226 apartment units, 58,000 square feet of light industrial space and retail, office and business/commercial development limited to 530,000 square feet — all mauka of the intersection of Kaonoulu Road and Piilani Highway. The project’s revised plans represent a scaled-down version of what had been referred to as the Kihei “megamall.”

Voting against approving the project’s environmental impact statement were commission Chairman Edmund Aczon, Vice Chairman Jonathan Scheuer, Vice Chairman Arnold Wong, Maui commissioner Lee Ohigashi and commissioners Gary Okuda and Dawn Chang. The commission held its meetings Wednesday and Thursday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

On Thursday, the developers’ lawyers and consultants tried to salvage the Pi’ilani Promenade’s environmental study after heavy opposition from testifiers Wednesday. They detailed the project’s environmental impact development process and refuted opponents’ contention that the development’s environmental study was inadequate and incomplete.

Civil engineer Darren Unemori discussed the project’s drainage plans and said that the development’s impact would be small compared with a watershed amounting to 471 acres mauka of the project site.

The environmental studies’ conclusions say that the development’s drainage plan would result in a downstream stormwater discharge rate that doesn’t exceed current levels.

Project planning consultant Jordan Hart, president and lead planner of Chris Hart & Partners, testified about community meetings held by the developer. Those meetings included the Aha Moku Council, the Kihei Community Association, the Maui Chamber of Commerce, the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, the Maui Contractors Association and the Maui Nutrition and Physical Activity Council.

During a break, Hart defended the planning document.

“I think that we did a really thorough job of making sure that we understood and responded to all the comments that were received from agencies as well as members of the public,” he said. “I think we did a lot of work in going out and having special meetings with individuals who had special interests on subjects of the EIS, including economic and cultural.”

Hart said meetings included site visits and having project consultants work with officials with public agencies and the state Land Use Commission staff “to make sure people participating in the process were comfortable with the way the project was going.”

“Obviously, there are some people testifying against the development,” Hart said. “I don’t know that we were able to resolve all of their concerns but we did try, and we tried to make sure we understood what they were saying.”

Intervener and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Daniel Kanahele testified that he was interviewed about the project’s cultural impacts. And, he told his interviewer that he has a cultural practice on the project property, but that wasn’t reflected in the final document.

He quoted the document as saying, “Whatever cultural practices or resources were practiced there in ancient times have long been abandoned and paved over in the construction of modern day Kihei.” But Kanahele said that’s not true.

“Cultural practices continue in the project area,” he said. “They have not been abandoned. Cultural resources that provide for cultural practices exist there, too. They have not been paved over, at least not yet.”

Kanahele said he has seen cultural practices at the site firsthand and has done them himself. He said his native cultural practice is to study cultural patterns that exist in nature.

“Some people study the patterns of weather,” he said. “Some people study the ocean, the currents, the tides, the light systems, plants and animals.”

Testifying for the interveners, Kula resident and retired professor Dick Mayer said that the environmental study is “huge, but terribly organized and virtually incomprehensible.”

The closest he could find to a project description is a “vague, inadequate, ‘bubble map,’ ” he said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.