LUC Advises Against Assuming Public Interest is Done

7/9/20

#kihei #landusecommission #megamall

In a surprise turn of events on Wednesday, July 8th during the Hawaii Land Use Commission hearing on the case of former Kaonoulu Ranch land, known as Docket A94-706, and popularized as “the mega mall” in media, it was announced that just less than 24 hours prior, a stipulation agreement was reached among the parties. The meeting was held online.

A stipulation agreement renders this eight-years-long-running case on Docket A94-706 essentially void.  It is an agreement between all concerned parties that is submitted to a panel or judge for approval. It usually eliminates the need to go to court but in this case, the LUC is a court de facto, as they are empowered by the state of Hawaii to administer the state land use law. Decisions made by the LUC are subject to the Hawaii state plan. Enforcement of LUC decisions are the responsibility of the appropriate county agency  or officer, according to state statute (Ch. 205 §205-12 – §205-16, luc.hawaii.gov).

In the agreement there are petitioners, those who are requesting relief or the recovery of a right, and there are intervenors, those who do not have a direct ownership of the item in question but who are impacted by the outcome of a legal decision. This stipulation agreement cancels all the motions and claims made between the petitioners and the intervenors, without the petitioners admitting any wrongdoing.

Figure 1: USGS Quadrangle (Puu O Kali, 1992; 1:24,000) Map Showing the Proposed Project Area Location (image: Hawaii Land Use Commission)

Pi’ilani Promenade South, LLC and Pi’ilani Promenade North, LLC represent Dallas, Texas-based petitioners who are the owners of parcels of former Kaonoulu Ranch land identified as “Pi’ilani Parcels”, and Honua’ula Partners, LLC represent petitioners who are owners of a parcel of former ranch land, named as the “HPL Parcel”.  Honua’ula Partners, LLC have a mailing address in Los Angeles, California, with an agent company in Honolulu, Oahu. Together, these parcels are collectively referred to as “the petition area” in the stipulation agreement.

Interestingly, Honua’ula Partners, LLC is not unfamiliar with settlements, having managed the development Wailea 670, a project which had its own troubles with environmental and cultural issues in 2016. There was a successful settlement between HP, LLC and the Sierra Club along with the citizens coalition of Maui United with an agreement on cultural protections and environmental boundaries.

Figure 3: Google Earth Image (Dated 1/12/2013) Showing the Proposed Project Area Location (Hawaii Land Use Commission)

There were also Maui citizens opposed to this “megamall” project. They are referred to as a group in the stipulation agreement as “the intervenors”. The citizen groups were Maui Tomorrow, represented by Albert Perez, South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth, represented by Mark Hyde, and Daniel Kanahele.

Albert Perez, Maui Tomorrow

PPS, LLC and PPN LLC had plans to develop a mixed use shopping center with apartments and a medical center. HP, LLC had submitted plans for workforce housing for their section of the petition area. Both groups have withdrawn those plans under this settlement. These two groups purchased the former ranch land, whose original owners already had plans submitted and approved for a light industrial park, which is in accordance with the Kihei Community Plan for the land in question. The image of the Kihei Community Plan shown below has an approximation of the land in question circled in red. LI stands for Light Industrial, AG for Agricultural land, and SF for Single Family homes.

Kihei Community Plan map -edited- (image: mauicounty.gov)

The agreement reverts the land back to its 1995 designation of a light industrial park, with all of those original orders attached at that time by the Land Use Commission. There appeared to be a cautious review of this reverted situation with questions in particular posed by the LUC about item 9 A, which stated there no “current violations” of the 1995  Decision and Order.

Nancy Cabral, Realty Business Owner, Broker, Land Use Commission (image: governor.hawaii.gov)

Although this settlement is likely a relief for all parties involved, the Hawaii Land Use Commissioners had some cautionary statements for the petitioners. Although the current intervenors are dropping any future interests regarding the petition area, there is no guarantee that a future group of intervenors won’t appear.

Commissioner Dawn Chang thanked a woman for her testimony against the development with respect for the project’s encroachment on sensitive cultural areas, and interference with Hawaiian cultural practices. The settlement states that the petitioners agree to work with “in good faith” with the lineal and cultural descendants of the area. Commissioner Chang warned those present that “… the lineal descendants will materialize…” .

Dawn Chang (2).jpg

Dawn Chang, J.D., Native Hawaiian Bar member, Land Use Commission (image: www.kuiwalu.com)

Commission Gary Okuda appeared to encourage the settlement for the sake of ending the docket, as did most of the panel, but clearly stated for all in attendance, “The public will hold them (the petitioners) accountable.”

Gary Okuda, Attorney at Law, Land Use Commission