LUC Votes to Deny Olowalu EIS

December 8, 2015, 9:19 AM HST · Updated December 8, 3:18 PM
Wendy Osher · 30 Comments
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Olowalu, Nov. 2015. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Olowalu, Nov. 2015. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The state Land Use Commission on Monday denied acceptance of the Olowalu Town LLC and Olowalu Ekolu LLC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.  

The Final EIS for the Olowalu Town Master Plan had sought to reclassify approximately 320 acres of land situated at Olowalu from the Agricultural District to the Rural and Urban Districts. The plan also featured approximately 1,500 dwelling units.

The document stated that the project would help to address housing needs in West Maui, with a development that discourages outward urban sprawl.

Olowalu undeveloped lands, Nov. 2015. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Olowalu undeveloped lands, Nov. 2015. Photo by Wendy Osher.

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Community groups who testified against the project included the Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter and the Maui Tomorrow Foundation.  Those opposed to the project claimed the development would limit public access to the coastline, impact ocean users, pose threats to nearshore marine environments, and threaten traditional and customary use of the coast.

“Members of the public, who waited ten hours to testify, are gratified that the State Land Use Commissioners, State Office of Planning, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Maui County Planning Department asked the hard questions about what exactly is being proposed for the culturally and biologically significant lands of Olowalu,” said project opponent and resident Lucienne de Naie.
The state Land Use Committee heard from Maui residents who signed up to testify at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater regarding acceptance of the Olowalu Town LLC and Olowalu Ekolu LLC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. File photo credit: Debra Lordan photo.

The state Land Use Committee heard from Maui residents who signed up to testify at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater regarding acceptance of the Olowalu Town LLC and Olowalu Ekolu LLC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. File photo credit: Debra Lordan photo.

De Naie described the information contained in the Final EIS as “often vague,” with promises of more details to come later. She said, “The Land Use Commission was correct to find the statement unacceptable as the master guidance document for all future land use decisions for the project.”

“This project has always been a lot more about the sizzle than the steak,” said de Naie.  She said, “The prevailing sentiments of the people testifying was that for a project of this size, in this location, promises need to be backed up by specific data, specific plans and specific commitments, as well as consultation with more than one or two cultural practitioners.  That preparation was simply lacking in the Olowalu Town EIS,” she said.
“It is unfortunate that the Olowalu Town investors and many of their consultants chose to deny that the project’s many unresolved impacts exist, rather than productively seek alternative project designs to address them,” said de Naie.
Lisa Marquis (from left), Peter deAquino, Davin Balagso and Kiana Carroll, all from Lahaina, came prepared both with signs and testimony against the Olowala Final Environmental Impact Statement. Debra Lordan photo.

Lisa Marquis (from left), Peter deAquino, Davin Balagso and Kiana Carroll, all from Lahaina, came prepared both with signs and testimony against the Olowala Final Environmental Impact Statement. File photo credit: Debra Lordan photo.

Executives with the Maui Tomorrow Foundation have been present throughout the hearing schedule and responded to the vote saying, “Unfortunately, the draft Final EIS was not forthcoming with information, and instead attempted to minimize the adverse impacts that are likely to occur if the proposal goes forward.”

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Foundation executive director Albert Perez said, “Maui Tomorrow has been following the Olowalu Town project since 2005. It would consist of 1,500 homes and up to 900 ‘ohana dwellings, would worsen the already heavy traffic to and from West Maui, and would impact coastal water quality, beach access, Native Hawaiian cultural practices, and archaeological sites.”

Perez also noted that endangered nene geese nest in the area, and the reef offshore, estimated to be 500 years old, is home to several species of rare corals.

He continued saying, “Maui Tomorrow has worked for years to educate people about the importance of Olowalu, mauka to makai, and has joined forces with concerned citizens from all over Maui to keep Olowalu from being turned into just another beachside, mega-development.”

Fellow opponent and Maui resident, John Fitzpatrick called the vote “a huge win for Olowalu.”

“We showed the State Land Use Commission that the Olowalu FEIS was inaccurate, incomplete, and failed to address the communities concerns,” said Fitzpatrick in an email communication to Maui Now.  “We held the developers accountable and showed that we are unifying and will never stop fighting to protect Olowalu. We made it clear that we want a better future for our keiki than the one this development offers,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said going forward, he hopes to work with Frampton & Ward on “a win-win solution” to place the ahupua’a of Olowalu into a permanent cultural reserve from mauka to makai modeled after the success at Honolua Bay.

Fitzpatrick said he also hopes to help them join forces with land owners who he said already have entitled lands and have failed to move forward in creating affordable housing and walkable-bikeable communities. “By implementing a sunset clause that makes entitled properties expire after years of inaction we can incentivize the development of truly affordable housing throughout Maui County,” said Fitzpatrick.

The future of Olowalu will be discussed in the next edition of de Naie’s Crossroads public access television show, airing at 7 p.m. tonight, Dec. 8, 2015, on Akakū, Channel 55.   Guests include Olowalu lineal descendent, legendary waterman and Hōkūlea crewmember Archie Kalepa and marine biologist Cynthia Matzke.  The episode will air again on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 8 a.m. and next Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m.

According to documents filed with the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, the Master Plan was designed as a “sustainable pedestrian friendly community which would allow residents to live within walking distance of stores, schools, parks, employment opportunities, gathering centers, beaches/shoreline, and other social and civic resources.”

Developers also noted that the Master Plan incorporated sustainable technology such as the reuse of water from the proposed sewer treatment plant for irrigation and small scale energy systems. A significant infrastructure component of the Master Plan was the proposed relocation of Honoapi‘ilani Highway further inland from the coastline.

Maui Now also sought comment from those opposed to the cultural impacts of the project and the LUC itself.  This post will be amended as further response is received.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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