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Lahaina Cannery Mall eyes expansion with gas station

Plans call for 8-pump gas station and convenience store

Shoppers cross the parking lot of the Lahaina Cannery Mall on Wednesday afternoon. Owners of the shopping center are proposing an expansion that would include a gas station and convenience store near the mall’s entrance. On Tuesday, the Maui Planning Commission deferred a decision on the project, saying they needed more information about traffic and the installation of the fuel tanks. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — Owners of the Lahaina Cannery Mall are looking to add a gas station and convenience store to the recently renovated shopping complex.

Lahaina Cannery Retail Owner L.P. is seeking a special management area use permit to build a gas station with eight fuel pumps and an 800-square-foot convenience store on a corner of its property next to the bustling intersection of Honoapiilani Highway and Keawe Street.

The project would cut total parking stalls at the complex from 719 to 638 stalls (550 are required). It would cost at least $950,000, according to county planning documents.

But on Tuesday, the Maui Planning Commission deferred a vote on the project, saying it needed more information on the traffic impacts and the installation of the tanks for the gas station, which would be located close to both the ocean and Kahoma Stream.

“I’m actually for this project,” commissioner Keaka Robinson said. “I think options are good for the west side. . . . But I do have questions regarding the SMA. I do have questions regarding the traffic study.”

The new gas station and convenience store that the Lahaina Cannery Mall owners are proposing would be located at the corner of the property near the busy intersection of Honoapiilani Highway and Keawe Street.

The Lahaina Cannery Mall has been undergoing an $18 million renovation that has included nearly doubling the size of Safeway — from 37,650 to 64,500 square feet — within the current mall. Plans also called for redesigning the exterior and moving the ABC Store to a larger location.

Commissioners liked the idea of cheaper gas and more grocery options. But they wondered whether there was a need for a new gas station with multiple stations already in the area.

Jay Kerner, president of U.S. Realty Partners, managing partner of the mall’s ownership group, said that Safeway did studies but “did not share them directly with us.” He said they showed a need for low-price gas options in the community, and Safeway could offer gas discounts to members as it does with its other products.

But the commission also worried about big-brand Safeway pushing out mom-and-pop gas stations. Project consultant Shane Peters explained that the station would not be on the same level as Costco, which offers gas, tire services and vehicle maintenance.

“This is purely a fueling station and convenience store,” Peters said. “What we do know is a lot of these mom-and-pops, particularly those in Lahaina town itself, their bread and butter, their core business, is repairing folks’ cars. That is, people go there for their safety checks, or automobile repair, oil changes, tire changes. . . . There are no other services that will compete with them that we are proposing.”

Commissioners were also concerned about the traffic that would come with the new gas station.

The traffic report estimates that the project will generate 1,515 net new weekday daily vehicle trips, including about 85 net new vehicle trips (43 inbound, 42 outbound) during the weekday morning peak hour, and 111 net new vehicle trips (57 inbound, 54 outbound) during the weekday afternoon peak hour. Jeff Overton, principal planner with G70, said the counts were taken in April (it has to be done during the school year), with the study released in October.

“We have done everything that we could design-wise so that cars will not get backed up and congested,” Kerner said. “That starts with the relocation of the pumps forward, spreading them out wide instead of deep and allowing for sufficient stacking so that (cars) won’t stack up into the drive and back up onto the highway.”

Kerner said that the entrance to the shopping center is “a little bit wider than it used to be” because of work that the state Department of Transportation did to the intersection when the most recent section of the bypass opened.

“One activity that could be pursued should mitigation be needed — right now the models don’t show it — would be some modification to the left turn travel lane,” Overton said. “The signal timing for that could be one of the fine-tuning mechanisms that the traffic engineers, when we spoke with DOT, they said that’s always a possibility downstream.”

Commissioners also pressed about the fuel tank specifications, how deep they’d be buried and whether they might impact the water table if there were a natural disaster.

Overton explained that there were stringent requirements. The tanks have secondary liners, and the technology to detect leaks has improved. The commission asked the owners to come back with more information — and to bring a Safeway representative the next time.

Lahaina resident Carl Offenbach, one of two testifiers, opposed the expansion. He lives across the mall and expected “a big bottleneck in the works as far as traffic with the Lahaina bypass.”

“Things are going to be built up more and using that bypass even more,” he said. “Once they start building houses and putting in new businesses, some of that needs to be taken into account. You just can’t go by a study for traffic that was done in October during the slow time.”

But Arleen Gerbig, president of the Lahaina Honolua Senior Citizens Club, said the club supports the project.

“The newly expanded Safeway is exciting, and I shop there maybe twice a week,” Gerbig said. “We were also pleased to hear that a well-known national breakfast chain may be opening at the cannery mall. The community will undoubtedly embrace this exciting new restaurant option, and I’m sure the seniors would love it.”

Peters said he couldn’t share the name of the breakfast chain just yet.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.