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MRA seeks more information from hotel developers

Meeting on review of environmental report stretches over 2 days

A draft rendering of the proposed Hotel Wailuku is pictured. The six-story, 156-room hotel would be located at the corner of Market and Main streets. — Hotel Wailuku rendering

Members of the Maui Redevelopment Agency felt that the draft environmental assessment for the proposed six-story, 156-room Hotel Wailuku “was very lacking in information” but the group generally supported the plans.

Members suggested that the applicant address parking and traffic issues, cultural and environmental impacts, and other design recommendations during the meeting Thursday and Friday.

“Even though the project may meet the minimum requirements on paper, it doesn’t meet the requirements of Wailuku,” agency Chairwoman Ashley Lindsey said Friday during a BlueJeans virtual meeting with the developers and applicant.

The two-day meeting, which drew scores of viewers and testifiers online, was called to allow the agency to comment on the hotel’s draft environmental assessment and not to take action on applications for height and room variances before the panel.

Due to an agreement among parties in a lawsuit, the Maui Redevelopment Agency is not allowed to make decisions on land use and variances until the County Council decides whether the agency is legal or not.

The hotel is being developed by Supreme Bright Wailuku LLC and Newcrest Image, which includes Maui residents and landowners Jonathan Starr and Helen Nielsen.

The MRA reviews applications for new development and renovation projects in the Wailuku Redevelopment Area. The applicants are seeking approvals from the agency because the proposed hotel exceeds the 20 rooms currently allowed and the four-story height limit.

All comments from the Urban Design Review Board, the MRA, the public, and other agencies, will be incorporated into the final environmental assessment.

More than 70 viewers and callers logged in to the BlueJeans meeting Thursday night, and about 25 returned Friday when the meeting reconvened. More than half of the 37 testifiers spoke in opposition to the proposed project, with the most popular concerns being that the hotel would heavily impact the history and culture of old Wailuku town.

“The pictures that I’ve seen, they don’t really fit Wailuku and that’s my concern,” said Wailuku resident Amy Pierce. “My concern is the local population — will it help them and will it be just another tourist area? We have a really beautiful and historic town, it really has so much history and culture, and I just really hope that you folks consider how it’s going to affect the traffic and the people.”

Project developers and supporters say the hotel will be an economic engine to revitalize the town and a place for business and Neighbor Island travelers. Supporters say that Hotel Wailuku would offer much needed, low cost accommodations for locals.

“To have a place where people can travel for business, you know, certainly I am a business owner, so I would love for people to be shopping in Wailuku,” Terri Erwin said. “I would love to see my neighbors in small businesses stop going out of business.”

In addition to the 156 rooms, the hotel would contain a lobby, kitchen, dining area, bar/lounge, laundry area, meeting rooms and administrative office space.

The main pedestrian entry would be via the corner of Main and Market streets. Guests arriving by car would enter the hotel’s parking lot from Main Street. A section of Maluhia Drive is proposed for widening to provide two-way traffic flow and allow exiting hotel traffic to return onto Main Street.

Off-site water improvements would include the installation of about 210 feet of 12-inch waterline on Maluhia Drive. Sewer improvements would include the replacement of about 356 feet of 10-inch clay pipe with a 12-inch PVC pipe along Lower Main Street, between the Kaahumanu Avenue Bridge and Mission Street.

Construction of the hotel is expected to start in the fourth quarter of this year and take about 20 to 22 months to complete, with operations starting in the third quarter of 2022, according to the draft assessment. Estimated construction cost is $36.4 million.

Those opposing the hotel harped on the height, possible traffic congestion, gentrification of Wailuku and the incomplete Archaeological Inventory Survey.

“At this particular time, to move forward with this EA with an incomplete AIS would be improper and immoral given such a high sensitivity with burials in this area,” Noelani Ahia said. “There’s a lot of history and information that needs to be considered.”

Wailuku resident Mariah Milan Dagupion, said that Wailuku would “face severe harm from gentrification” and would lose its charm and small town character. There are other places to build a hotel, she said.

On the other side, Rod Antone, who is executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association, said that the hotel is conveniently located near the hospital, downtown shops and athletic facilities for local visiting families and business travelers.

Stephanie Ohigashi agreed that Hotel Wailuku would revamp the town and boost the economy, but suggested that the applicants be “culturally sensitive” in their proposed plans.

The MRA was generally supportive of Hotel Wailuku’s design but had concerns about the added traffic congestion in the area, including the entrance and exit to the hotel, and issues near Maluhia Drive, which runs between the hotel and its parking lot.

The agency is requesting a market study to include the hotel’s projected performance at four-, five- and six-stories to see what would be financially and realistically viable. This would help to determine the need for additional height and room occupancy requested.

Both Vice Chairman Keone Ball and Member George Kaho’ohanohano suggested a more thorough analysis on how the proposed parking area of 78 stalls would host the hotel’s capacity of guests and staff combined.

Other suggestions included widening the surrounding sidewalks to keep Wailuku walkable and safe, considering different parking lot alternatives, seeking alternatives to the proposed pool, mitigating potential noise concerns, and including more details in the report on how the hotel plans to serve the local community.

Written testimony is due by Monday and should be emailed to public.works@co.maui.hi.us and copied to the applicant and consultant.

The applicant, Supreme Bright Wailuku LLC, can be reached by mail at 700 State Highway 121, Suite 175, Lewisville, TX 75067; by email at james.houser@newcrestimage.com or by phone at (817) 715-7014.

The consultant, Munekiyo Hiraga, can be reached by mail at 305 High St., Suite 104, Wailuku 96793; by email at planning@munekiyohiraga.com or by phone at 244-2015.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

** This story includes corrections from the original published on June 6, 2020.

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