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Mega-Mall Myths

We shouldn’t bring Southern California to South Maui.

December 6, 2012
Thomas B. Kelly - Via Email , The Maui Weekly

The veracity of the state Land Use Commission (LUC) has been challenged by the effort to build two side-by-side Southern California-style mega-malls adjacent to affordable homes and the planned new Kihei High School. The land in question, mauka Pi'ilani Highway, was the subject of an LUC order dated February 1995. The order included 20 conditions and is now under review to determine if current proposals are in compliance. If not, the LUC is likely to require remedies to assure compliance--otherwise, the commission will lose all relevance in determining the appropriate use of our precious lands.

But the real issues go far beyond the scope of the current LUC review. There are several myths that require public attention.

Myth one: The outlet mall and adjoining retail center will be good for local business. An interview with small business owners in Kihei would surely present a different picture. Competition from national brand names that dump excess inventories and adopt predatory pricing may offer shoppers good deals, but will ultimately kill local business. Local retailers create longer-term employment at higher wages than national brand names that often use part-time lower wage employees.

Myth two: The developer will open an alternative route for traffic in and out of South Maui. First of all, the developer would build a minor component of the "road to Upcountry." Even if the road were completed, the traffic impact would be primarily to relieve congestion on Dairy and Hansen roads. The people of Kihei, Maui Meadows, Makena and Wailea live on a "cul de sac"--only one way in and one way out: Pi'ilani Highway.

Kihei Road, winding along the ocean through commercial and residential areas, is often congested and is not an alternative corridor to serve South Maui. The developer proudly touts that the project, once completed, will create Maui's "busiest intersection." Does anyone sense midday traffic jams or perceive the risk of more accidents in front of our new school?

Myth three: The proposed malls are essential to local job creation. Job creation in the construction industry is always a compelling argument for new development; but meeting this objective with bad designs or poor location is never the right answer. How about building the proposed Kihei Town Center makai of the new roundabout on Pi'ikea? A sustainable development with access by pedestrians and bikes would offer an 'ohana-style hotel, family entertainment center and retail. The location is not on the main South Maui artery. Workers would be proud to build this project, and South Maui families would enjoy its use for decades.

The lack of transparency and public input related to the current mega-mall proposal is shameful. But equally abhorrent is the absence of common sense. Let us not use our scarce resources for a development that fails many of the design guidelines and regulations that have already been embraced by the people of Maui. It is time for the administration and regulators to do the same and not bring Southern California to South Maui.



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