JOINT PRESS RELEASE
Albert Perez, Maui Tomorrow Foundation
May 3, 2017
Maui Community Groups Ask Court to Halt Approval of Makena Resort’s Environmental Assessment
Luxury Development Will Have Significant Impacts on Environment & Cultural Practices
Ho’oponopono O Makena, Maui Tomorrow Foundation, and Sierra Club Maui Group filed a lawsuit in Maui’s Environmental Court on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. They are seeking to invalidate the Maui Planning Commission’s acceptance of the Final Environmental Assessment (FEA) and issuance of a Finding of No Significant Impact for development of the proposed 47-acre Makena Resort M-5/M-6/S-7/B-2 project, a 158-unit gated luxury community on the mauka side of Makena-Keone’o’io Road, above Makena Landing. The FEA was approved by a 5-3 vote, with several members of the Commission expressing strong reservations regarding unresolved impacts. The Plaintiffs are represented by attorney Lance D. Collins.
The plaintiffs’ suit points out that the FEA limited review to the proposed 47-acre development, which is only a segment of developer ATC Makena 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 Makena groundwater resources. In addition, ATC Makena Holdings plans to divert water from Central Maui’s ‘Iao aquifer for its development, but this diversion is subject to a complaint by Central Maui water users, and is under investigation by the State Water Commission.
Ashford De Lima is President of Ho’oponopono O Makena, an organization that was formed to preserve and protect cultural and historic sites in Makena, including heiau, rock structures, shrines, ancient walls, pathways, and roads. “Ho’oponopono means ‘to make things right,’ ” he said. The group’s members are interested in caring for the many historic sites in Makena with any other interested community members. Said De Lima, “Our goal is that all the things that are there in Makena should be made right.”
Mr. De Lima is a member of a fifth-generation Makena family. Most of the 47 acres currently proposed for the project, including a recorded burial site, was held by his ‘ohana during the Hawaiian Kingdom era. He is a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and fisherman, and has observed significant environmental impacts of neighboring development in the area. He is also concerned that the cultural review done for the developer is inadequate in an area that has so much history. “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 Makena area, and on our ability to continue our traditional and customary practices at Makena. Members of Ho’oponopono O Makena continue our cultural practices in and around lands proposed for the Project, yet the Applicant’s Cultural Impact Assessment Report stated that its research ‘yielded no information about cultural resources or practices being conducted in recent times on the project area.’ ”
According to Albert Perez, Executive Director of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, “ATC Makena Holdings sliced off 47 acres from their 1,800-acre Makena Master Plan, and assessed only the impacts of that segment. They claimed that they had no further plans for the rest of the land – some of which they previously received rezoning for – and hoped nobody would question it. However, the Hawai‘i Environmental Policy Act requires the applicant to properly assess the cumulative impacts of all segments of its project prior to decision making or construction on any segment of the project. The public interest requires complete and proper environmental review.”
“Plaintiffs in this lawsuit have raised concerns about significant environmental impacts with this developer for years,” said Perez, “Unfortunately, our concerns have not been adequately addressed. “The entire Maui community reveres Makena’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 Makena 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.”
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 Makena-‘Ulupalakua Road. “Why can’t this project find a design that protects this important historic site rather than replacing it with a luxury condo building, ‘members-only’ pools, and ‘shade hale’ that no one on Maui needs? The loss of this road is not even discussed in the Environmental Assessment, and no mitigation is offered. Under the 1892 Highways Act, this road is considered a public road, and entitled to preservation. Also, the Kihei-Makena Community Plan requires that projects ‘[p]reserve and restore historical roads and paths as cultural resources,’ and requires ‘such resources to be available to the public.’ The Plan also directs that ‘Ancient Trails/Old Government Roads’ in the South Maui area ‘should be identified for preservation…’ ”
“Many of us who grew up here on Maui have used the Makena-‘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 January 10, 2017 meeting, yet the FEA was based on the developer’s “Preferred Alternative.” 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.” This is inconsistent with the FEA as written.
The developers are also scheduled to come before the Commission on May 23, 2017 to request a Special Management Area permit for the luxury 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.
Ho’oponopono O Makena is an organization that was formed to preserve and protect cultural and historic sites in Makena, including heiau, rock structures, shrines, ancient walls, pathways, and roads. The group’s mission is “to make things right” in Makena; they are interested in caring for the many historic sites in Makena with any other interested community members.
The Maui Tomorrow Foundation is an environmental advocacy organization serving as a watchdog for enforcement of Hawaii’s environmental and land use laws. For more information, please visit maui-tomorrow.org.
The Sierra Club Maui Group, part of the Sierra Club of Hawai’i, is one of the oldest and most effective grassroots environmental organizations in the islands. Founded in 1976, we currently have thousands of members and supporters volunteering to help people better explore, enjoy, and protect Hawai’i’s unique environment and wildlife. Learn more at mauisierraclub.org.