KCA led the way with four Directors testifying, which almost outnumbered the volunteer Commissioners, at Tuesday morning’s Planning Commission meeting in Wailuku. With four commissioners, including both from Kihei, absent, they had a bare quorum of five. But when it came to Walgreens’ request, which was already recommended by the County Planning Depart for a “Final Environmental Assessment Determination,” the Commission said let’s defer this to some future undetermined date for more investigation and discussion. We expect the earliest it would be scheduled is end of next month, but we will remain vigilant. Stay tuned. Look for video of meeting on Akaku, Ch 53 soon, and See Maui News report on the entire meeting, as follows
Planning commission grants more time for Maalaea landfill
Debris expected to meet facility’s capacity in May
By COLLEEN UECHI – Staff Writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) , The Maui News
The Maui Planning Commission approved a two-year permit extension Tuesday for a construction and demolition landfill in Maalaea, giving the site operators until Feb. 1, 2018, to fill and close the landfill.
At its Tuesday meeting, the commission also deferred a decision on the final environmental assessment for a proposed Walgreens in Kihei and approved a two-year permit extension for the Maui Palms Hotel redevelopment project.
Speaking in support of the permit extension for the landfill, county Planning Director William Spence pointed out that the island has no other locations for construction waste.
“Technically in over two weeks this permit expires,” he said. “They would have to stop taking any fill . . . I don’t think that’s in the county’s interest. I don’t think it’s in the interest of the construction industry.”
However, residents living near the landfill maintained the landfill had had more than enough time to operate, said Robert Riebling, vice president of the Maalaea Community Association.
“Our community has been urging the closure of this landfill for more than 10 years now, for a variety of reasons including its noxious odors, blowing dust, rubber tire fires and the visual blight it imposes,” Riebling said. “The Maalaea community, and Maui at large, should not be penalized any longer for the failure of these people to act in a responsible and timely manner.”
The most recent permit extension given to the landfill was in 2008 and was set to expire Feb. 1.
The landfill first opened in 1996, after the Planning Commission approved a state special use permit in 1995. At the time, business owner Richard DeCoite had noticed a need in the community for construction and demolition waste collection, planning consultant Rory Frampton said. It was cheaper for construction companies to dump their waste and easier for other landfills that no longer had to separate construction materials from other waste, he added.
Last February, the landfill closed for nearly a month after being issued a warning for violating height regulations. The landfill pit was given a limit of 176 feet above sea level, which ranges from 16 to 40 feet above the sloping ground on which the landfill sits.
Frampton estimated that the limit would be reached by May of this year, and closure could begin shortly after. The waste would fill up to 173 feet to allow enough room for a few feet of soil and grass layers, he explained.
The application for a time extension was not a request for increases in height or size of the landfill, said staff planner Kurt Wollenhaupt. Additional time would allow the landowner to close operations according to “great and excruciating” Department of Health permit requirements, he said.
“There are a lot of efforts that have to be put forth in order to close the land with regards to complying with the Department of Health permit,” Wollenhaupt said.
Frampton added that the extension would provide “a cushion, not knowing the variations of the construction industry.” However, he said the odds of the company requesting another extension were “very low.”
“The community is being patient. Everybody is being patient,” commission member Larry Hudson said. “We want to be assured that this particular item won’t come up again.”
With the landfill closing soon, attention will shift to where to deposit the island’s construction and demolition waste.
While the county doesn’t have any replacement landfills planned, the Central Maui Landfill can receive construction materials, said Michael Miyamoto, deputy director of the county Department of Environmental Management.
Some private companies are looking into opening construction landfills, Miyamoto said by phone Tuesday. He added that the county could hire contractors to collect waste.
“We have land adjacent to the Central Maui Landfill that we could purpose (for a landfill),” he said. “We could maybe use some of our land to contract out service . . . to get the waste and crush it.”
Commission member Keaka Robinson asked why the landfill couldn’t be extended within the property to allow for more construction waste. Wollenhaupt said this would go beyond the 14.9 acres on the original permit, requiring more steps in the process that would further delay operations.
“If you look at the current planning law, which is vastly different from the time of the original permit, it has become much more onerous,” Wollenhaupt said. “It’s a process that, for something like this, could take two years.”
Meanwhile, commissioners decided to continue discussion on the proposed Kihei Walgreens at a later date. While the county Planning Department recommended a finding of no significant environmental impact, commissioners wanted more proof that drainage issues would not affect neighboring residents.
Both commissioners and residents said they wanted more information before moving forward, including more “knocking on doors” in the community to discuss potential impacts.
The 14,550-square-foot Walgreens would occupy the lot next to McDonald’s at the intersection of South Kihei Road and Nohokai Street.
In response to community concerns, the company changed designs to better reflect the residential area, said Tom Schnell, principal with PBR Hawaii & Associates. Changes included sloping the roofing and bringing down the entrance height from 38 to 25.5 feet.
However, residents suggested scaling down the dimensions of the store even more.
Kihei resident Randy Wagner pointed out that Walgreens has other locations around the country that are around 10,000 square feet.
“We are not against business or trying to shut things down completely,” fellow Kihei resident Charlene Schulenburg said. “What the concept here is is, I think is wrapped up into one word, and that is residential. The size of this project is just not reasonable for our small Kihei community.”
Lawrence Adler, Walgreens manager of new store development, said smaller stores are usually placed in urban areas with higher foot traffic.
“We don’t have a distribution center in Hawaii, so stores need to be of a certain size,” he explained. “This is no bigger than our average store.”
Drainage plans most concerned commissioners. The project site is in a special flood hazard area where mauka watersheds flow through Kihei en route to the ocean. Commissioners worried that the building would cut off the natural drainage flow and impact neighbors in the area.
“We had three lots where water was naturally dispersed on regular elevation,” Robinson said. “Now we’re curtailing that to go out of one exit point.”
Darren Unemori, vice president at Warren S. Unemori Engineering, Inc., explained that while the project can’t fix the flooding hazard in the area, the proposed improvements “ensure the situation isn’t made worse.” According to its final environmental assessment, Walgreens has proposed a 20,000-cubic-foot-capacity retention basin to catch some of the runoff and allow the rest to follow its natural path to the ocean.
“It’s not that we’re diverting water to the neighbor,” Schnell said. “It’s already flowing this way.”
A date has not yet been set for future discussion of the Walgreens situation.
In other business, the commission approved a two-year time extension on a special management area use permit for the Maui Palms Hotel project, part of developer Peter Savio’s Pagoda Hotel group of properties.
Savio purchased the Maui Palms property in 2014 and wanted more time to apply for permits and begin construction, architect Chris Clubb said. Most design details remain the same.
“It’s the same amount of rooms, same amount of square footage, same everything that was approved previously,” he said, calling the permit extension “more of a formality.”
The 136-unit hotel would sit between the Maui Beach Hotel and the Maui Seaside Hotel on West Kaahumanu Avenue.
The company hopes to break ground sometime this year, Clubb said.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.