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State ERS scraps plans for Kaanapali Golf Courses Revitalization project

By BY LOUISE ROCKETT - | Nov 6, 2020

KAANAPALI — Four years ago to the month, October 2016, the Lahaina News learned about the Kaanapali Golf Courses Revitalization project. The master plan document came out of left field, circulated to Kaanapali residents and stakeholders as a “not for distribution” and “subject to change” proposal and ended up on our desktop.

The drawing board scheme called for the renovation of 305 acres of property encompassing 36 holes of golf course owned by the State of Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

The goal was to convert portions of the existing acreage to other revenue-generating purposes to help sustain the long-term viability of the ERS.

It promised to alter the future face of the island’s first fully master-planned destination resort, developed in the early 1960s.

The vision of the project manager, Lowe Enterprises, was a 27-hole regulation championship facility and a nine-hole Par-3 layout.

Some of the other elements of the proposal included a 56-unit oceanfront/ocean view condominium complex; new oceanfront beach club and public signature restaurant; 100-room boutique hotel; an 80,000-square-foot retail parcel; and a new or remodeled golf clubhouse.

Lowe marketing executive Jann Diehl advised the Lahaina News at the time, “We have met with dozens of community leaders, business organizations, homeowners’ associations and a host of other interested parties to review the draft plan. As these meetings continue, the comments and recommendations we receive are being considered and incorporated into the draft plan.”

That was four years ago. Fast forward to 2020 — after multiple standing room only community meetings, it was evident that the unpopular rejuvenation proposal did not take hold.

Then out of right field, to the surprise of many, the state Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) published in its Oct. 23 issue of The Environmental Notice: “The State of Hawai’i, ERS is no longer pursuing this project.”

The president of Kaanapali Operations Association (KOA), Wayne Hedani, was unaware of the announcement.

In an interview, Hedani advised the Lahaina News of their position.

“In the past, KOA has opposed what we felt was an inappropriate overdevelopment of the golf course which compromised key concepts of the master plan of the Kaanapali Beach Resort. Preservation of critical view planes to the sea, maintaining open space vistas within the resort and avoiding overdevelopment of commercial spaces were some of our concerns which were also shared by the community at large,” Hedani explained.

At various public meetings, joining the KOA league of opposition, testifiers added Hanakao’o Beach Park to the list of must-preserve sites.

There were serious reservations about the construction of a residential condominium complex at the south end of the project, mauka of Highway 30 immediately above Canoe Beach.

“That beach park cannot handle any more impacts to it,” Kai Nishiki said.

Archie Kalepa, a fifth generation Lahaina man, reacted to the good news announcement issued last week Friday: “I think the paddling community is really, really pleased with the decision of the ERS to pull the Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice, which in turn shuts down the development of housing on the golf course above Canoe Beach,” he said.

He was, however, cautiously optimistic.

“What is spooky to me,” the 1982 Lahainaluna High School graduate said, “are they planning on something else?”

According to the Maui County Planning Department, there is nothing on the table at this time.

However, Hedani advised, “We (KOA) look forward to continued discussions with ERS or any potential future owner of the golf course on appropriate balanced redevelopment concepts or plans.”

According to Hedani, Kaanapali Beach Resort is a 1,200-acre master-planned resort development that currently includes over 6,000 units which supports over 5,000 employees, generates over $150 million in taxes annually and represents almost $3 billion of economic contribution to the Maui economy.

“It is worthy of protection,” Hedani observed, matter-of fact, adding, “the future holds many challenges, including sea level rise, beach erosion and other effects of climate change. “The County of Maui and State of Hawaii are beginning to address these challenges in partnership with the private sector. We must work together in order to create a preferred future for our residents, employees, owners and the community as a whole. Flexibility will be a key to our future success,” Hedani concluded.