Appellate court invalidates county approvals for development in Lahaina
LAHAINA — The Intermediate Court of Appeals recently invalidated the Special Management Area (SMA) approvals for Kahoma Village, a mixed housing development in Lahaina.
Maui County Planning Director Michele McLean provided an update after consulting with county attorneys: “We will contact the other parties to determine the next steps; this is unusual in that the project is essentially complete, so it is not clear what the plaintiffs-appellants wish to present to the Maui Planning Commission.
“Assuming that Defendant-Appellee Stanford Carr Development does not wish to appeal, the parties can work together to prepare for the contested case, including when it will be scheduled.”
In 2014, area residents led by Michele Lincoln sought to intervene in the Maui Planning Commission SMA Permit approval process. The commission denied the intervention.
Area residents raised concerns about the elimination of beach access parking on Kenui Street; access to a six- acre community park, as required by the West Maui Community Plan; elimination of trees for listed endangered species; adverse impacts to drainage and runoff; destruction of Hawaiian cultural resources; failure to properly investigate the presence of Hawaiian burials in the project area; adverse traffic impacts; and potential problems related to evacuation with development occurring in the Tsunami Inundation Zone.
The court ruled on three points.
First, the commission erred when it decided that the issues raised by the neighboring residents were the kinds of concerns the panel was required to consider anyway in its decision-making, so that an intervention wasn’t warranted.
Second, the Planning Commission’s failure to hold a contested case on the residents’ concerns violated their right to due process under the Hawaii State Constitution.
Third, while the Maui County Council granted the project a waiver from obtaining a Community Plan Amendment under the Maui County Code, state SMA law required the commission to independently find that the project is consistent with the community plan before it may approve any project in the SMA.
“The court has reaffirmed that the community has a right to participate in shoreline development approval processes. Hopefully, the Maui Planning Commission will begin again to allow interested community members their right to participate in these proceedings,” said attorney Lance D. Collins, who represented the Lahaina residents.
“We are grateful to the Appeals Court and look forward to making our case before the Planning Commission,” said Lincoln.
“Since being denied the right to intervene with the Maui Planning Commission six years ago, I am happy with the court’s decision ruling in our favor. However, the damage is already done concerning protecting this very historical site. Open space in this congested area, along with a park commemorating its rich history, are now lost forever.”
Craig G. Nakamura and Arsima A. Muller represented Stanford Carr Development, Thomas Kolbe and Caleb Rowe represented the Maui Planning Commission, and Bianca Isaki represented the Waipio Bay Benevolent Association and Malama Kakanilua as amicus curiae.