Residents seek to intervene in planned community center

Eleven East Maui residents have filed a petition to intervene in the Nahiku Community Center project, which currently is undergoing permit and land use change reviews by the Maui Planning Commission.

The intervenors, most of whom reside in Nahiku and have family ties to the area, are asking the county to conduct an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement review for the center.

The use of $2 million of county funds for the project triggers the need for an environmental review, they say, adding that they would like to have more information on the center and its impacts on the area.

The county says it doesn’t need the environmental studies because the project is essentially “the replacement of the former grammar school building site.”

The Lower Nahiku Grammar School, which closed in 1958, was destroyed by arson in December 2005.

Plans for the 2,472-square-foot community center include a paved parking lot and driveway, wastewater system, social hall, kitchen, storage areas, restrooms and covered entry lanai.

The county is seeking a community plan amendment from agriculture to public/quasi-public, a state land use boundary amendment from agriculture to rural and a change in zoning from county agriculture to P-1 public/quasi-public district.

A special management area use permit request for the project is the avenue being used by the East Maui residents for formal intervention, county officials said. The Maui Planning Commission will decide whether to accept or deny the request to intervene in the SMA proceeding, Maui County Planning Deputy Director Michele Chouteau McLean said Monday. Acceptance would lead to a contested case proceeding.

The petition to intervene will be scheduled for review by the commission after the Hana Advisory Committee makes its recommendations, said Mc-Lean.

On Aug. 8, the commission designated the Hana committee to conduct a public hearing on the project. The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at Helene Hall in Hana.

The Nahiku Community Center project, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, has faced past calls for an environmental review. In the current petition to intervene, the residents said that questions about noise impacts, increased public use in a small community and the ownership of the parcel could be answered in an environmental review.

“As someone who lives here every day and sees the weather patterns, rain runoff, ponding, flooding, traffic, tourist, large vehicles and narrow road, I implore the need for an honest environmental assessment,” Nahiku resident Ellen Kaho’okele, the current president and moderator of Nahiku Congregational Church, said in the petition.

Kaho’okele said her grandfather David Kaho’okele donated the Nahiku school lot to the community. In its current SMA application, the county said it does not need an environmental review for the project because the center would be located generally on the same site as the old school; would serve the same purpose; and have similar capacity, height and dimensions.

The center likely already would be built, but a lawsuit filed against the original contractor for breach of contract after a groundbreaking in March 2013 set back the project. The $815,000 of county and state funding lapsed due to the delays.

In October 2016, Mayor Alan Arakawa transmitted bills to the Maui County Council asking for $1.95 million to complete the design, permitting and construction of the center. The council approved the funds.

The County Council will have the final say over the changes in zoning, community plan amendment and state land use district boundary amendment after it receives a recommendation from the planning commission.

The commission will make the decision on the SMA.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


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