Politicians Enter Battle Over Planned Kihei Malls
By Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez
The fight over the fate of two malls planned for Kihei in South Maui has turned into a battle of dueling letters, filings with official county and state administrative bodies and organized community protests.
Meanwhile, work continues on the project located mauka of the Pi’ilani Highway, at the intersection with Kaonoulu Street.
The source of the argument is a 700,000 square-foot South Maui retail complex composed of two individual malls. One, the Pi’ilani Promenade would consist of 400,000 square-feet on 68 acres and the other, the Maui Outlet Mall, would consist of 300,000 square feet on a 30-acre site.
In an April 13 response to a March 13 letter from South Maui Councilmember Don Couch to Mayor Alan Arakawa seeking clarification regarding the administration’s position on the legality of building the malls the mayor—through his Planning Director Will Spence—wrote the
“The State Land Use Commission (LUC) reclassified approximately 88 acres from the State Agricultural District to the State Urban District in 1995…At that time, the petitioner proposed a light industrial/commercial subdivision. There were no conditions imposed by the State LUC that restricted use of the property. Whether the property is used for commercial or light industrial purposes, both are ‘urban’ uses. The State Urban designation allowed the county to zone the land accordingly.”
The mayor’s letter went on to say that during the review of the County Change in Zoning application the Maui County Planning Department proposed five conditions to limit use of the site for business uses. Neither the Maui Planning Commission nor the council supported the restriction “and as such, there are no conditions of zoning that restrict uses within the M-1 Light Industrial District for this project.”
Charlie Jencks, liaison to the project, after reviewing the mayor’s letter said that it “…reflects the facts as I understand the record and county code. It is an accurate representation of the history and factual record of the project.”
However, Maui Tomorrow and South Maui Citizen’s for Responsible Growth disagree. Those organizations have filed a Motion to Show Cause with the LUC requesting the issuance of an order from the Land Use Commission “…to show cause why the property…should not revert to its former boundary classification because of the landowners’ failure to use the property consistent with the 1995 [Land Use] Commission Order.”
In the view of these two organizations the landowners (Eclipse Development Group, LLC) “are pursuing uses of the property which clearly violate the terms and conditions of the 1995 Commission Order. In addition, the filing with the LUC contends that Maui County is “failing to enforce the 1995 Commission Order despite its statutory obligation to do so.”
Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow, says that, “…at no time has the public ever had an opportunity to be heard on the shopping center and outlet mall, as required by state and county law. The only notices to date and the only opportunities to be heard on the development of this property occurred in 1994 before the LUC to comment of Kaonoulu Ranch’s proposed light industrial park and in 1998-1999 before the county when the very same light industrial park was presented to the county in the form of a community plan amendment and rezoning.”
The opportunity for public participation gained momentum when Attorney Tom Pierce, acting on behalf of Maui Tomorrow and South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth sent a “cease and desist letter” to attorney Jonathan Steiner, attorney for the property owners. The letter to Steiner was based on the LUC motion and demanded the owners stop all construction activity.
In addition, Pierce wrote to Spence to “demand that you immediately enforce the 1995 [LUC] Order and cause the owners to cease and desist from further activities on the land for the purpose of constructing a retail shopping center, as has been admitted and acknowledged by the owners.”
Entering the fray last week were State Senator Roz Baker and State Representative George Fontaine who represent the South Maui Kihei area. Independently, they have both written letters to the LUC and to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) raising questions about the property owners’ carrying out of the 1995 LUC Order and if they are meeting all conditions associated with the order, including traffic improvement requirements.
Both Baker and Fontaine called for public hearings on the project to be held in Kihei.
This is a controversy that will not go away and it looks like Kihei may be in for a long hot summer of administrative hearings, legal action and an aroused community determined to stop the development.