Kihei “Giganta” Mall Opposed at Meeting
By Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez
It was a hot night in Kihei and Dick Meyer, a well-known environmental activist, was attending the June 19 meeting of the Kihei Community Association held at the Lipoa Street campus of the Kihei Charter School.
He had come down the mountain from Kula to voice his concerns over plans to develop a retail shopping center and outlet mall on the mauka side of Piilani Highway, just above Kaonoula Street.
“I’m concerned that this project is setting a precedent of breaking the community plan for South Maui and if it is allowed to break the community plan of South Maui it means that all the community plans on the island could be in jeopardy,” he said.
“Upcountry, where I live, we want to make sure that if the community gets together and decides on a plan and the County Council adopts it then it should be the plan and the administration and the bureaucrats in the Planning Department and Public Works should follow it,” he added.
Over 250 other concerned citizens joined Meyer, attending the packed meeting that was held without air-conditioning due to an equipment problem.
In what is becoming a routine event at KCA meetings, the developers of the retail project – while invited – did not appear; only those who were opposed to the meeting were on the program.
Contacted after the KCA meeting, Charlie Jencks, who works for Maui Industrial Partners and is acting as a liaison between that company and Eclipse Development—which bought the former ranch land and is planning the retail development—told Maui Now that he has previously met with the KCA Planning Committee and was hoping to attend a public meeting planned by the KCA.
“The problem,” as he explained it in a telephone interview, “is that now a number of actions are being taken by opponents of the project that could involve legal issues which I would not want to comment on while appeals are being moved into official channels such as the Maui County Board of Variances and Appeals and the state Land Use Commission (LUC),” he said.
“After those are handled, I would be happy to talk with the KCA in a civil, well-planned meeting. By that time I would have completed the Traffic Impact Assessment Report (TIAR), which has not yet been officially filed with the Department of Transportation,” he said.
Prior to hearing from a KCA panel, Mark Hyde, President of South Maui Citizens’ for Responsible Growth, outlined the history of the former Kaonoulu Ranch land the project is to occupy, the Land Use actions relating to the project, applicable land use laws, and how the project had come to be approved.
(Editor’s note: an outline of why the mall fails to meet legal conditions was submitted by Hyde in a letter to Maui Now back in March and can be read here.)
In his remarks Hyde noted that “15 annual reports have been filed with the LUC by owners of the property, all claiming that the property will be developed as represented to the commission in 1994…” There was no mention of changing from light industrial to retail.
Members of a panel brought together for the KCA meeting did little to hold back with their opinions about the retail and outlet malls.
The panel consisted of water advocate Michael Houghton, traffic engineer Victoria Huffman, community activist Mark Hyde, former Maui County Planning Director Mike Foley and was moderated by KCA President Jon Miller.
Earlier Huffman had told the audience “The traffic impacts (on Piilani Highway) will not be pretty in my professional opinion.”
Foley told the group, “This does not comply with the community plan for South Maui.”
Houghton warned about overuse of the aquifers that supply Central and South Maui with water. “Salinity is rising,” he said. “If you contaminate those aquifers you are pretty much done.”
The meeting broke up about 20 minutes over schedule. The room cleared and small groups of people gathered to continue talking in the parking lot.
This is an issue that will not easily go away and it could, in fact, be the beginning of a long hot summer in Kihei Town.
For more information on this and other South Maui projects go to the KCA’s website.