To understand the controversy over the planned large outlet center and retail mall in Kihei and the other development slated for the 88-acre site, it helps to know the story until now.
It also helps to know that there are two persuasive storylines that go along with an actual recitation of the facts.
Ka'ono'ulu Ranch property, 1995
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
The facts are that the site is made up of seven parcels of land along and near the Pi'ilani Highway in Kihei that were once owned by Ka'ono'ulu Ranch. They are all located in Tax Map Key (TMK) (2)-3-9-1. They are lots 16, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174 and 169 on the mauka side of the Pi'ilani Highway.
Decades ago, these parcels were sold, and at that time, the buyer went through a long process of having the land use changed from Agricultural to M-1 Commercial.
To do that, they had to satisfy more than a dozen criteria, and meet with all related county and state departments. The use was stated as a multi-lot, light industrial subdivision.
They cleared this hurdle in 1995, when the Hawai'i State Land Use Commission (LUC) granted them the change.
When this became permanent, it was called an "entitlement." In real estate terms, the entitlement "runs with the land," which means whenever the land is sold, the entitlement goes with it.
From 1995 until 2009, nothing happened.
Land purchased 2009-10 at cost of $42.8 million
In 2009 and 2010, the Pi'ilani Promenade Partners (North and South) and Honuaula Partners, all represented by Charles Jencks of Maui, bought the seven lots for a total price of $42.8 million as shown in public record documents. Jencks, a former Maui County director of Public Works, currently acts as liaison for all of the properties and their owners.
The lots were then recombined into four large sections. Three of them are for the two large malls--the Pi'ilani Promenade retail mall and Maui Outlets center. The fourth section is currently projected as workforce housing agreed to as part of the eventual build-out of Honuaula (formerly known as Wailea 670).
The assignment to develop the malls went to Eclipse Development of Irvine, California, a developer and leaser of outlet shopping malls.
News stories about the project began to appear in early 2011 (Maui Weekly's "Retail Centers Set Mauka of Pi'ilani Highway," Feb. 3, 2011; and "Now Leasing: Maui Outlets Center," Feb. 10, 2011).
As reported by The Maui News' "Kihei mall project touted as 'job generator' - Calif. developer aims to start work in spring on state's largest outlet center" (Jan. 29, 2012) story, the shopping center "would be the largest outlet mall in Hawai'i."
The cost to build is estimated at approximately $200 million.
The news stories said that the proposed road running between the two malls would be the starting point for the much-delayed highway from Kihei to Upcountry. They also pointed out that on nearby land (not all of them owned by these particular owners) there would be homes and a school, and a very large increase in density and traffic was likely to occur.
The stories indicated that the malls-dubbed by some as "mega malls" or "giganta malls"--were on a fast track. The project had the cooperation of Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration. Grading permits were rapidly granted.
Was the land use switched?
There was only one fly in the ointment: what had been outlined and approved in 1995 was seemingly different from what was being built in 2012--and pre-construction work was already well underway.
Some people concluded that this property did have entitlements, but on the surface, they seemed to be for a different project. It looked distinctly like a switch had been made.
The Kihei Community Association invited the developer to speak and answer questions at the organization's monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 19, but received no response.
The owners, developers and the county asserted it was legal, and it was going forward.
But that isn't the way some members of the Kihei community saw it. They had a number of questions about a project of this size that needed answers. Not surprisingly, they wanted to be consulted. In their view, Kihei's needs were different than they had been in 1995.
The upshot was that those who felt the project was sailing under false colors took it up with the state Land Use Commission (LUC).
Show cause motion filed with LUC in May
Maui Tomorrow Foundation Inc., South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and Daniel Kanahele filed a motion in May to show cause. The motion, if granted, could open up the 1995 docket A94-706 again.
If denied, the project would go forward. Either way, the losing side could appeal in state circuit court.
The matter not only got on the LUC docket, it was there in a twinkling of an eye. It will be heard this month on Friday, Aug. 24, at Royal Lahaina Resort in Ka'anapali. The meeting is expected to begin at 9 a.m. in the Maui Ballroom. Public testimony is invited in person or in writing. Those who wish to email comments can send them to Chief Clerk Riley Hakoda at email@example.com.
Others join in, for and against
In the meantime, other statements have been filed in support and in opposition.
The most interesting supporter was the state's Office of Planning, which filed a brief strongly recommending reopening the case on the basis of many differences between what was being built and what was approved. It also pointed out that giving the green light to this kind of "switch" would discourage others from complying with the law, which requires a specific kind of notice be filed when significant changes are made.
An opposing view was outlined by the County of Maui, which filed legal papers though the office of the Corporation Counsel saying the differences were reasonable, supported by the facts and urging that the motion be denied.
The Aug. 25 LUC meeting will hear the disputing parties and determine if there is sufficient cause to reopen the file.
This hearing is not about the merits or sufficiency of the project. It is to discern whether or not there is legal "cause" to proceed toward an evidentiary hearing in which the final outcome could be that all seven parcels would revert back to Agricultural status.
Not the end of the story
No matter what the outcome, it is certain that Kihei has not heard the end of this story.
In the meantime, Eclipse Development's Website still states it is in its pre-leasing phase for space from 1,000 to 160,000 square feet at the first phase of the malls, as site work continues for Pi'ilani Promenade and Maui Outlets.