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Mega-Mall Projects Spark Kihei Protests

KCA panel members voice procedural, traffic and safety concerns regarding mall projects in South Maui. “… the end of Kihei as we know it.”

June 28, 2012
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez , The Maui Weekly

To some, it's an opportunity to shop on Maui without having to fly to O'ahu to get those outlet mall Christmas-present prices. For others, such as Mark Hyde, president of South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth, it means "the end of Kihei as we know it" and a "development that will forever alter the character of South Maui."

Whatever your viewpoint, it was clear that at the June 19 meeting of the Kihei Community Association (KCA), emotions were running strongly against the idea of a 700,000-square-foot South Maui retail complex composed of two individual malls mauka of the Pi'ilani Highway-Ka'ono'ulu Street intersection.

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.

Article Photos

Looking toward Wailea, this diagram shows the location of shopping malls planned by the Eclipse Development Group mauka of Pi‘ilani Highway. The larger one, Pi‘ilani Promenade, is a 400,000-square-foot retail complex on 68 acres. The smaller one, Maui Outlets, will be 300,000 square feet in size, located on 30-acres.
Diagram provided by Dick Mayer

Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow, expressed concern "that the state and county need to enforce the laws that are in place, and we really feel that this project is not what was given approval for zoning back in the mid-1990s."

Asked if Maui Tomorrow is considering legal action, Bowie responded, "Right now, we're just looking to go before the [Maui County] Board of Variances and Appeals and the state Land Use Commission, and we hope that we get administrative remedies at those two levels and that a court action wouldn't be necessary."

Hyde began the KCA's review of the project with a presentation of the history of mall's approval process. He was followed by traffic engineer Victoria Huffman, who raised concerns over increased traffic flow on Pi'ilani Highway and a subsequent degradation in the quality of Kihei's intersections.

Representatives from the developer, Eclipse Development Group Inc., declined their invitation to attend the meeting.

Following Hyde and Huffman, the KCA convened a panel comprised of Michael Howden, past chair of the county's Board of Water Supply; Traffic Engineer Huffman; Hyde; Mike Foley, former Maui County Planning Director; and KCA President Jon Miller. The panel members disputed the planning process for the shopping malls and raised procedural, traffic and safety concerns in opposition to the project.

Interviewed by telephone after the meeting, Charlie Jencks, a liaison for the project, said that the site's light industrial zoning does allow for retail development.

He pointed to projects such as the Maui Marketplace and Lahaina Gateway Shopping Center as examples.

Asked about the Kihei-Makena Community Plan, Jencks said it was a broad guiding document that was then acted upon and put into place through subsequent zoning decisions.

"It is not correct to say that there was never any commercial development planned," Jencks said.

"At each point in the process, the fact was raised that this was to include retail development, and the Maui County Planning Commission, the state Land Use Commission and the County Council were asked for guidance on the mix of retail with industrial," he said.

"In each instance, the landowners were told to let the market decide," Jencks added.

South Maui County Councilmember Don Couch did not attend the meeting due a serious family medical emergency that required treatment on O'ahu.

But Couch said in a written statement, "The community has asked to meet with the developers or their representatives to learn more details and express their views on the project. This is an entirely appropriate request, and I am disappointed that it has not been honored.

"I have written to the Planning Department requesting the underlying basis for the project, and the department has responded that the developer is within their legal rights to proceed," Couch continued. "It is my intention to monitor the project to ensure that all conditions are fulfilled as required."

"In addition, I am writing to the state Land Use Commission to ask the same questions and to specifically request the opportunity for additional community input." Couch added.

"It is clear that our zoning laws need to be clarified," he said. "I have placed this subject on the agenda of the County Council's Planning Committee meeting for July 30, which I chair, and a urge public testimony on this subject."

Currently, a designation of light industrial zoning does allow retail development.

"If this is not what the community wants, then it must be changed to protect against any future surprises," Couch concluded.

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