Planning Commission Rejects Permit Recommendation for Pā‘ia Inn
By Wendy Osher
The Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday voted 5-1 to reject recommendations from a hearings officer in a report regarding the Pāʻia Inn’s remanded application for a special use permit.
The business was seeking the permit to operate as a transient vacation rental with nine rooms, but opponents have expressed concerns over the years saying they have seen tourism, real estate, and commercialism “grow beyond the island’s infrastructure and resource capacity.”
The motion to reject the report was made because commissioners found it did not meet all the conditions required for a special use permit, “specifically they felt it didn’t meet criteria #6, avoiding deleterious affects on the community,” said Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez, a member of the team working on this issue on behalf of the Pāʻia Inn.
“We now have to look at our options and decide how to go forward, but it was a clearly erroneous action by the commission,” said Blackburn-Rodriguez.
Judge John McConnell, who was assigned as a hearing officer in the contested case, issued a Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on July 13, 2018, supporting the Inn’s owner Seashore Properties LLC, saying “There is simply no relevant evidence that supports denial of the Application.”
In a summary explanation of his findings at the time, Judge McConnell said, ” The assertion that these nine rooms would interfere with schools, parks, playgrounds, water systems, sewage and disposal, drainage, roadway and transportation systems, etc., is simply unfounded.”
Judge McConnell pointed out that there was testimony against the application from two individuals in particular, but said “such testimony is irrelevant and should be disregarded,” because there were apparently personal issues involved, and the Pāʻia Inn may be viewed as a potential competitor.
Commissioner Lawrence Carnicelli made the motion to reject the recommendations citing in part discrepancies in neighbor support. Commissioners referred back to testimony from an individual who claimed to be an owner of a neighboring business, but Blackburn-Rodriguez called the testimony “false and misleading,” challenging the individual’s role as a stakeholder. He noted that new owners have letters of support for the petition.
“We were all very shocked at that motion… and saddened by the outcome,” said Blackburn-Rodriguez, who expressed disappointment that there was not an opportunity on Tuesday to present evidence for the record to the contrary. “We believe it was made on a reason that does not stand.”
The lone dissenting vote against the motion came from Commissioner Kellie Pali.
Opponents who started an online petition against the Pāʻia Inn say, “We will continue to support one of the last ocean front Hawaiian land owners in Pāʻia, by stopping further gentrification of Hawaiian lands.”
The latest rejection comes after a decision two years ago in which the Commission denied the permit, and a subsequent appeal by owner Michael Baskin.
The property was the subject of a County Planning Department investigation in May 2013 as a result of complaints in which SMA, zoning, permit and building code violations were identified. In 2015, the department levied fines totaling a half million dollars against Baskin. At the time, Baskin defended his business and called the application process “confusing and misleading,” saying he did his best to comply with what was a brand new ordinance at the time.
In an email statement on Tuesday afternoon, Baskin said, “The Pāʻia Inn is and will remain open for business. We are disappointed by the erroneous decision by the Planning Commission. We look forward to Judge McConnell’s report supporting our application ultimately being adopted.”
The Pāʻia Inn property is located at 93 Hāna Highway in Pāʻia.