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Council takes no action after day of public testimony

WAILUKU — Nearly 50 people testified before the Maui County Council on Tuesday during a meeting that featured a packed agenda, including more funding for the Wailuku civic complex and bills to construct a parking lot in Kihei and relating to sand mining.

The all-day meeting was recessed after public testimony was closed around 5 p.m. No action was taken.

The council will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday in Council Chambers.

Council Chairman Mike White said council members will try to address Land Use Committee matters first because council Vice Chairman Bob Carroll, who chairs that committee, will need to be in Hana in the early afternoon.

More than a handful of testifiers addressed bills that would increase the appropriation for the Wailuku civic complex by $40 million. This past spring, the council set aside $44 million for the first phase of the civic center hub, which includes major infrastructure upgrades in Wailuku town. The complex consists of a new multilevel parking structure over the current Wailuku municipal lot, along with a three-story building for retail stores, county offices and special events.

The additional $40 million would allow the project to be built or “to go vertical,” said Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama at a committee meeting last month. The committee recommended appropriating the bond only, not authorizing it. Hokama had said he was interested in adding the $40 million because some large construction projects, such as the airport’s rental car facility, were finishing up, leaving workers available.

The bills are up for first reading Thursday. The final council meeting of the year will be on Dec. 21.

Kristin Holmes, owner of Swan Interiors next to the complex, said she would need to endure the dust and noise during construction of the civic complex. She said she works hard to make her business attractive to compete against big box stores.

She said the same goes for Wailuku town.

“This is not going to happen if we do absolutely nothing,” said Holmes, whose family has owned land in the area for decades.

Holmes added that the complex is not only a parking structure but a civic space with public areas. It also comes with much-needed infrastructure upgrades.

“People just see it as a parking facility,” she said.

Another longtime landowner in Wailuku, Jonathan Starr, said the community has gone through many plans for parking in town. A standalone parking structure was proposed but failed.

People favored a complex, which included a place to eat and gather, along with spaces for the county and the community to use, Starr said.

Kai Nishiki said she understood why Wailuku may need a refreshment and revitalization. But “this seems like a little bit of overkill,” she said.

Nishiki called for more meetings with the public.

“This is a good time to take a pause, especially with the new council coming in. Maybe there are other ideas our community wants to spend money on,” she said.

Spencer Hyde called for getting more cars off the road. Back in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lived previously, a $100-per-month incentive was given to employees who carpooled or did not park in certain areas.

He pointed to the Maui Bus and its phone application that many don’t know about. The app tells riders where the bus is in real time. He said the county can invest $20 to advertise the Maui Bus app on social media.

It will “be cheaper than building a brand new parking garage,” he said.

Much testimony also was generated by two bills up for first reading to allow for a parking lot to be built near Sarento’s on the Beach and the Days Inn by Wyndham Maui Oceanfront, both along South Kihei Road.

One bill would amend the Kihei-Makena Community Plan and land use map from single family to hotel. The change would reflect the existing hotel use on approximately 1.119 acres of state-owned property.

The second bill would grant a two-year conditional permit to Ruby & Sons Hospitality LLC, the applicant for the project, to allow for the construction and use of the off-site parking lot in the county park district.

The permit includes conditions, such as incorporating parking stipulations proposed in a settlement agreement from a Board of Variances and Appeals’ intervention, which states that not less than 51 parking stalls be designated for public beach access and no more than 34 stalls for hotel and restaurant parking.

The community plan amendment bill also prohibits the hotel from increasing its current capacity, density, height and footprint.

But Lucienne de Naie said that, even though there are conditions placed on the parking lot project, people do forget.

Even though the hotel cannot change its footprint, “intentions are forgotten. We think we’ve done well by putting the conditions on and solving the problem, but it doesn’t always work,” she said.

Other critics said more community input is needed from Native Hawaiians and others.

But Jean Campbell, attorney for Ruby & Sons Hospitality, said there was plenty of time for the community to weigh in on the matters because they were presented to the Maui Planning Commission 12 years ago, followed by other meetings, including a recent site visit.

She said hotel owners and those from the community, including activists such as Dana Naone Hall, all agreed to the long-standing settlement agreement for how many stalls the public would use, along with the hotel and restaurant.

Two bills relating to sand mining and protection of Hawaiian burials also received much testimony. They were in a bill to preserve and protect sensitive historic, cultural and archaeological sites and unmarked human burial sites by clarifying the grading and grubbing permit process.

The other bill deals with preserving and protecting the county’s finite natural resources relating to resource extraction and processing.

The bill’s original author, Council Member Don Guzman, said during public testimony that he would recommend that the bill relating to resource extraction be sent back to committee.

After hearing testimony from both Native Hawaiians and developers, Guzman said “no one’s happy with that bill.”

He said he must be close to finding some common ground because two parties had issues. He said he would send the bill back for more work by the future council.

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

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