Groups Seek to Halt Approval of Mākena Resort’s Environmental Assessment
Environmental and cultural protection groups joined in filing a lawsuit on Tuesday, seeking to invalidate the Maui Planning Commission’s acceptance of the Final Environmental Assessment and issuance of a Finding of No Significant Impact for development of the proposed 47-acre Mākena Resort Project.
Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Hoʻoponopono O Mākena, and Sierra Club Maui Group filed the lawsuit in Maui’s Environmental Court saying they believe the 158-unit community above Mākena Landing will have a significant impact. They are being represented by attorney Lance D. Collins.
The plaintiffs’ suit points out that the FEA limited review to the proposed development, saying it is only a segment of developer ATC Mākena Holdings, LLC’s 1,800 acre Master Planned Development. They also allege that the FEA failed to consider significant impacts that the new luxury development would have on public views, beach access, historical sites, and Mākena groundwater resources.
Albert Perez, Executive Director of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation said, “Plaintiffs in this lawsuit have raised concerns about significant environmental impacts with this developer for years. Unfortunately, our concerns have not been adequately addressed.”
He continued saying, “The entire Maui community reveres Mākena’s beautiful beaches and precious natural resources, and the developer needs to acknowledge that the construction of an elite private enclave in this area will have significant environmental impacts, including the reduction of access to popular public beaches, loss of protected scenic views, and impairment of the Mākena environment. The Maui Planning Commission knows that a Finding of No Significant Impact is only appropriate if there are no significant impacts; the Commission should have required that a full Environmental Impact Statement be prepared.”
ATC Mākena and Discovery Land Company responded to our request for comment with a statement saying:
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“From the onset, Mākena has worked to abide by all State and County requirements, while thoughtfully incorporating the voice of the community. The project provided thorough environmental review and received archaeological approval from the State Historic Preservation Division including its thorough assessment of the private ʻUlupalakua Road. Mākena hosted 15 group meetings with a Community Advisory Group and a Cultural Focus Group, and welcomed numerous small group and individual meetings to receive comments, guidance and to provide updates. Those meetings included representatives of Sierra Club Maui Group, Maui Tomorrow, ʻUlupalakua Ranch, ILWU and many neighbors and familial descendants of the area. Through the robust community engagement process, Mākena was able to incorporate designs that will help improve natural resources in the area. Based on community feedback, Mākena also revised initial site plans to further preserve views.”
Hoʻoponopono O Mākena, an organization that was formed to preserve and protect cultural and historic sites in Mākena, including heiau, rock structures, shrines, ancient walls, pathways, and roads. Organization president Ashford De Lima, who is also a member of a fifth-generation Mākena family said, “Our goal is that all the things that are there in Mākena should be made right.”
“I think we need to have an independent cultural review of the proposed site and the surrounding area,” De Lima said. “I believe that the project will have significant adverse impacts on the historic, cultural, and environmental resources of the Mākena area, and on our ability to continue our traditional and customary practices at Mākena,” he said, noting that members continue cultural practices in and around lands proposed for the project.
Representatives with ATC Mākena and Discovery Land Company say they made a commitment to the Mākena and Maui community to be a leader in natural, coastal and cultural resource stewardship.
“Mākena is setting new standards in Low-Impact Design, building Maui’s first Green Streets and planning a low-density community one-fourth of what is allowable under zoning. While utilizing modern engineering measures to improve surrounding natural and coastal resources post development, Mākena is honored to continue the timeless story connecting people to this precious coastal resource by expanding Maluaka Park and improving shoreline access to Oneuli beach, and through upgrades of Mākena Landing park.
In a statement issued by ATC Mākena and Discovery Land Company, representatives spoke to the project’s intended benefits saying:
“Project benefits include improved public parking and pedestrian access, over $5 million in annual property taxes, $2.8 million towards county parks, an estimated 185 new construction jobs and 145 operational jobs when complete, a community gathering place and Historic Interpretative Center and increased view corridors to the ocean from Mākena Alanui.”
“Water resource management is a primary focus with landscape water supplied by Makena’s existing non-potable system and the potable water is supplied by a new well developed in partnership with the Department of Water Supply to improve the current Central Maui water system. In addition to already providing affordable housing at Waiehu Kou and Hale Mahaolu, Makena has volunteered to provide workforce housing on the project site.”
Clare Apana, Executive Committee Member and Chair of the Sierra Club Maui Group’s Cultural Preservation Committee, expressed concern that the FEA makes no provision for the protection of the historic Mākena-‘Ulupalakua Road. “Many of us who grew up here on Maui have used the Mākena-‘Ulupalakua Road, just like generations of our ancestors. If it disappears, a part of our history and culture is lost forever, in order to create expensive condos for mainland investors,” said Apana.
Plaintiffs also questioned whether the Maui Planning Commission’s vote on the FEA was appropriate. The Commission’s vote specified a “View Enhancement Alternative,” which the Commission asked the developer to add during its Jan. 10, 2017 meeting, yet the FEA was based on the developer’s “Preferred Alternative,” according to the complaint. In his transmittal letter to the State Office of Environmental Quality Control, the Maui Planning Director wrote of the Planning Commission’s acceptance of the FEA, “The Commission expressed a preference for the View Enhancement Alternative, which the Applicant will pursue as the project moves forward.” Plaintiffs say this is inconsistent with the FEA as written.
Representatives with ATC Mākena and Discovery Land Company say they were guided by “resilient families who have unbroken ancestral connection to Mākena and by decades-long homeowners who live in the area immediately surrounding the proposed 47-acre M5/M6/S7/B2 project.” In a statement, company representatives say Mākena was designed to have no significant environmental impact.
“Mākena is very thankful for the support of its Final Environmental Assessment approved on March 14, 2017 by the Maui Planning Commission. Among others in the broader Maui community, support was provided by the Mākena Homeowners Association and Wailea Community Association. Mākena is also very grateful for the guidance and support provided by those who have been devoted stewards of this land and surrounding sea for generations including – Ed Chang, Carol Kaonohi De Lima Lee, Frank Brandt, Sam Garcia, Bobby Luʻuwai, Dugal Milne, Hui Alanui o Mākena and many others.”
The developers are scheduled to come before the Commission on May 23, 2017 to request a Special Management Area permit for the project. The Plaintiffs have asked Environmental Court Judge Joseph E. Cardoza to grant a temporary stay to stop the processing of this associated Special Management Area application until the court can hold a hearing on the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction against the Maui Planning Commission’s acceptance of the Final Environmental Assessment.