Once a megamall, project scaled back to light industrial

Opponents still want process to revert land back to ag

Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Albert Perez (from left) gives testimony on the Piilani Promenade, now a light industrial and commercial project in north Kihei, before the state Land Use Commission on Wednesday afternoon at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Alexa Higashi meeting room. Beside him is court reporter Jean McManus and commission Vice Chairman Aaron Mahi. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

KAHULUI — After once being proposed as a “megamall” in north Kihei and undergoing many revisions thereafter, the embattled Piilani Promenade project may revert back to its original form — as a commercial and light industrial subdivision.

The modified plans call for 111 commercial and light industrial lots, down from the 123 originally proposed some 20 years ago as part of a land-use change from agriculture to urban, said representatives of owner Piilani Promenade North and South.

The reduction of lots will allow for 7¢ acres of open space, a gully and surrounding areas which were deemed important space by community members, developers said.

The latest plans for the 88 acres mauka of the intersection of Kaonoulu Road and Piilani Highway strip away the developer’s previous proposals for affordable and market-rate apartments, a senior living facility, a medical building and a grocery store. People who attended a meeting on the proposed new plans for the development in September were unhappy with those aspects.

In the five months since the meeting, the developer has gone back to the original commercial-light industrial subdivision proposed in 1995 because there has been a break down in communications with the intervenors who are against the project, said Harry Lake, chief executive officer of Koa Partners, which is doing community outreach for the landowners.

He said the intervenors have resumed the push for an order to show cause hearing over whether the developers are in compliance with conditions set as part of the land-use change to urban — which could lead to the land reverting to agricultural use — and a contested case proceeding both pending before the commission since 2012.

He made the statements after a meeting of the state Land Use Commission on Wednesday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Alexa Higashi meeting room. The commission is meeting on Maui to consider whether to resume the order to show cause process.

The meeting was recessed at 4 p.m. Wednesday. It will resume at 9 a.m. today at the MACC.

The site has a long history and looks to could come full circle with the latest proposals. The original development dates back to 1995, when land owner, Kaonoulu Ranch, proposed a 123-lot commercial and light industrial subdivision. The commission moved to reclassify the property from agriculture to urban with a series of conditions.

In May 2005, the property was sold to Maui Industrial Partners, which later sold about 13 acres to Honua’ula Partners in 2009 and the other 75 acres to Piilani Promenade North and South in 2010.

Piilani Promenade is owned by Texas-based Sarofim Realty Advisors. In 2011, it hired Eclipse Development to draw up plans for 695,000 square feet of retail space. Labeled by some in the community as the “megamall,” the development sparked outcry from area residents.

The plan was challenged by Maui Tomorrow Foundation, South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele. In 2013, the commission ruled that the megamall proposal failed to meet conditions set in 1995.

Sarofim parted ways with Eclipse Development and presented a scaled-back version of the project that the commission voted down in 2017. Commissioners said more studies needed to be done on the project’s overall impacts to South Maui, including traffic and cultural concerns.

To address those issues, Koa Partners conducted outreach, which Lake said in testimony to the commission involved multiple meetings with the intervenors and community members and multiple plan revisions.

In September, a community meeting was held and developers took that input and again went back to the intervenors. In total, around 25 meetings were held, landowner attorneys said Wednesday.

Later in the fall, the intervenors disengaged, saying “we are tired of looking at more plans,” said Lake.

Still, landowners wanted to honor the community’s wishes and added the 7.5-acre preserve, Lake said.

But Albert Perez, executive director of Maui Tomorrow, said in testimony Wednesday that cultural features were treated as part of the main landscape and robbed of their true value. After reviewing plan after plan and not seeing results, Perez said “we determined further negotiation would not lead to a project the community could support.”

“It is time for this matter to be closed,” he said, in support of continuing on with the order to show cause process.

The developers say that their current plan — and even the plan before that one — met all the conditions for the land-use change and that the order to show cause should be dismissed. The developers say they have remedied the violations of conditions cited by the commission by having a frontage road parallel to Piilani Highway, developing parcels in substantial compliance with representations made to the commission and is up to date with annual reports.

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

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