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The Kihei Shell Game

We can’t afford to gamble with land.

August 30, 2012
Debra Lordan - Editor/General Manager ( , The Maui Weekly

To the extent that real people with real money and real plans cannot attain timely decisions in a reasonable, cost-effective fashion, our public policy seems to promote a constant search for loopholes.

In pursuit of their project's progress, people who live and work in real time (as opposed to public policy time and government employee time) have pragmatic incentives to bob and weave through land use logistics.

Granted, that is not a valid excuse for avoiding due diligence. But on a small scale, it happens every day with non-permitted, non-code-compliant "improvements" to residential properties. On a large scale, commercial "switcheroos" that take entitlements for one approved land use (like light industrial) and transparently transfer them to a different use (like intensive retail and residential) do not as easily escape scrutiny.

Article Photos

Debra Lordan
Editor/General Manager

Such is the case with the shopping and apartment projects in Kihei. On Friday, Aug. 24, the state Land Use Commission unanimously voted to reopen the docket on the land use issue for Pi'ilani Promenade North and South, and the Honua'ula apartment development. In making their decision, the commissioners were not judging the merit of the projects, but merely deciding to take another look at the land use change originally granted to Ka'ono'ulu Ranch in 1995.

Laws and rules are written so that people may know and understand how the land in their area will be used, and have opportunity to make informed comments.

The opponents say there is a procedure for approving land use in our state, and substituting one use for another to build a retail mall, outlet center and apartment complex does not comply with the original order.

Plans commonly evolve, but the owners of those projects must file the necessary notices as changes occur. It strains credulity to think this was merely an oversight.

Just as we commiserate with the residents of Kihei, who seemingly awoke one day to find that what they thought would be an ant farm has morphed into an elephant stable, we also sympathize with developers who antied up big bucks with assurances of smooth sailing.

But building major projects in our community shouldn't be some sleight-of-hand game where we are always left to wonder where the pea is hiding and whether or not it is, in fact, a small legume or, in reality, a giant watermelon lurking under the shell.

We look forward to a positive outcome for Kihei, but thus far, the procession along the Pi'ilani Promenade has been anything but a leisurely public stroll.



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