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Appeals court voids Kahoma Village permit

Residents had tried to intervene on the project in 2014 but request then was denied

An appeals court has invalidated a permit for a Lahaina housing development that’s already been approved, built and put on the market.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the Maui Planning Commission should have allowed a group of neighboring residents to intervene on Kahoma Village, a 203-unit, $60 million fast-track project that was approved in 2014.

“The court has reaffirmed that the community has a right to participate in shoreline development approval processes,” Lance Collins, attorney for the residents, said in a news release Monday. “Hopefully, the Maui Planning Commission will begin again to allow interested community members their right to participate in these proceedings.”

Stanford Carr Development first proposed the housing project back in September 2012 on 21.6 acres in Lahaina. The project site is bordered by Front Street, Kahoma Stream, Honoapiilani Highway and Kenui Street.

In June 2014, the Maui Planning Commission granted the project a special management area use permit by a 6-0 vote, saying it would add much-needed workforce housing on the west side.

However, more than 20 Lahaina residents testified at the meeting against the project over concerns of increased traffic, sewage, emergency access, pedestrian safety and school overcrowding, according to Maui News reports at the time. They also called for the space to be turned into a public community park, which was required by the West Maui Community Plan.

Collins said his clients also had worries over the loss of beach access parking on Kenui Street and impacts to endangered species and Hawaiian cultural resources.

A group of nearby homeowners known as the Protect and Preserve Kahoma ‘Ahupua’a Association tried to intervene on the project at the time. Members Mark Allen, Linda Allen and Constance B. Sutherland all live within 500 feet of the project, while another member, Michele Lincoln, lives upstream but uses the beach and drives in the area, Collins said. The commission, however, denied the group’s request.

After losing an appeal in 2nd Circuit Court, the group took its case to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, which vacated the circuit court’s decision and sent the case back to the planning commission.

Collins explained that the appeals court ruled on three main points: first, that the commission made a mistake when it decided that intervention wasn’t warranted because the issues raised by the residents were the kinds of concerns the commission was required to consider anyway; second, that the commission’s failure to hold a contested case violated the residents’ right to due process under state law; and third, that while the Maui County Council exempted the project from having to get a community plan amendment under the Maui County Code, state law on SMA permits required the commission to make sure the project was consistent with the community plan before approving it.

While it may be too late to remove buildings and build a park on the actual site, Collins said there could be other options, such as opening a park in another location in Lahaina.

“Even though it’s already built, they still have the opportunity to be able to have the community concerns addressed,” Collins told The Maui News on Monday.

With the court ruling, Planning Director Michele McLean said that “the next step would be to contact the other parties to determine the next steps.”

“This is unusual in that the project is essentially complete so it is not clear what the plaintiffs-appellants wish to present to the Maui Planning Commission,” McLean said Tuesday. “Assuming that defendant-appellee Stanford Carr Development does not wish to appeal, the parties can work together to prepare for the contested case, including when it will be scheduled.

“The court said that the commission did not find that the project was consistent with the General Plan, specifically the West Maui Community Plan, and so we will provide supplemental analysis for the commission to make this determination,” McLean added.

Carr could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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

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