Maui Lani’s commercial project clears panel’s review

WAILUKU – Kainani Street continues to bedevil developer HRT Ltd.’s plans to build a shopping center around a Safeway supermarket across from Baldwin High School.

Critics have raised concerns about how the project would affect traffic and safety on the residential road located just mauka of the planned commercial center.

In their latest proposal, the developers proposed installing a raised curb to cordon off Kainani Street where it turns right onto Kaahumanu Avenue. The so-called “bulb-out” would prevent cars headed out of Wailuku toward the new shopping center from merging into traffic from Kainani Street.

But the idea wasn’t popular, and some said it would make the intersection more dangerous.

“The only thing positive that can be said about the bulb-out is that it’s close to the hospital and the police station,” quipped Planning Commission Chairman Jonathan Starr.

Upon learning that state Department of Transportation Director Brennon Morioka had asked for the traffic-flow device, Starr asked developers’ consultant Mike Munekiyo to write Morioka and ask him to reconsider.

The planning commission approved a finding of no significant impact and accepted an environmental assessment for the project. But the vote was split 5-3, with those voting “no” expressing concerns over traffic and Native Hawaiian burials on the site.

Commissioner Ward Mardfin was among those voting against, and he moved to defer the matter for more discussion. Commissioners Penny Wakida and Lori Sablas voted with him.

The majority voting to accept the report were Commissioners Jack Freitas, Kent Hiranaga, Donna Domingo, Warren Shibuya and Orlando Tagorda.

Starr did not vote, as is customary for the chairman of the commission, who usually votes only to break a tie.

The majority noted that Tuesday’s action does not stop the discussion or preclude further demands of the developer when it comes in for phase two project district approval.

The panel is awaiting a report from the Maui/Lanai Islands Burial Council about graves on the 12-acre site. Consultant archaeologist Lisa Rotunno-Hazukan said 19 burials have been discovered in the sand, with the possibility of more when excavation for the 105,000-square-foot center is done.

Twelve are to be left where they now lie near the intersection of Kainani and Kaahumanu, while three or four other burials that currently lie in the path of the entrance road are to be moved to join the larger group. Three other individual burials will be kept where they are in the parking lot, covered with stones and marked off with fences.

This arrangement was planned in consultation with the burial council, but it has not satisfied nearby resident Clare Apana, who says that she is a spiritual practitioner responsible for the area.

The Maui Lani development, of which Maui Lani Shopping Center is a commercial component, overlaps part of the historic battlefield of Kakanilua (which is said to have been fought between Native Hawaiian armies from the Big Island and Maui over an area from Sand Hills to north Kihei). The site is especially sensitive because many chiefs of the Big Island were killed by the Maui army.

Rotunno-Hazuka said the burials discovered so far don’t show any signs of battle trauma and that several are women, children or infants.

Apana complained that she had not been allowed to submit information for the cultural inventory assessment before submission of comments on the draft EA, but HRT cultural consultant Kimokea Kapahulehua said he had contacted her and would consult with her before the process ended.

Apana objected to considering the shopping center lot in isolation, saying that burials have been discovered throughout Sand Hills and that more will be found. Kane Akua said development “never leaves time for the ancestors.”

Theresa Wright, who said she had initially opposed the center when she “heard rumors” about it in 2007, said she is now satisfied with changes made since she began meeting with the developers.

She would have preferred that it be located elsewhere, but she was pleased that it is now smaller than the 130,000 square feet originally proposed, and especially that Kainani, the entrance to Sand Hills subdivision, will not be used as an entrance into the shopping center.

Munekiyo said HRT is in discussions with Baldwin High to see what can be done to move school traffic more efficiently.

He said if more unloading space can be found, it should be possible to handle school traffic more efficiently, which in turn would help mitigate problems on Kaahumanu Avenue.

It was the prospect of managing traffic from the high school, plus the shopping center plus commuters, on a main artery that caused the state Highways Division to insist on changes to the traffic pattern.

That led to a somewhat complicated arrangement that will provide an “auxiliary lane” from the exit of the shopping center on Kaahumanu leading down to Maui Lani Parkway. A traveler would not have to enter the main flow on Kaahumanu before ducking off into Maui Lani

(Maui News)