Sierra Club Maui’s comments on Makena Resort Development Draft EA

From Sierra Club Maui Group
PO Box 791180
Paia,HI 96779

Re: Comment on Makena Resort Development Draft EA

Greetings Planning Commissioners, Planning Staff, Consultants and Applicants

Sierra Club Maui has a number of concerns about the Draft EA for Makena Resort. It is lacking key information and also has statements regarding planned commitments in one section,that are never refered to in the body of the report. It’s as if the DEA discuses two different plans. We were not asked to be involved in the early consultation process for the Draft EA.

The project appears too dense for the steep sloped terrain of the site. Extensive cut and fill is shown on the engineering maps to allow all the buildings to fit. This is a risky design option in this location and the DEA does not even discuss the volumes of cut and fill involved. No alternative project designs that could minimize the amount of cut and fill needed are actually analyzed in the DEA. Instead, we are informed that the consultants looked at some options and settled on the design presented in the DEA. The means the public and decision makers have nothing to review or discuss on the topic of Alternative Designs.

Any potential drainage problems appear to be dismissed in the DEA with assumption that drainage basins, underground storage, swales and bio-retention and other mitigations will always function perfectly. There is simply not one example of that happening on Maui, but that possibility is not discussed.

Many Planning Commission members and the public were concerned about the proposed project’s water supply. The DEA merely says that the applicants are in discussion with the County DWS to confirm a water source. This provides no analyses of what impacts the water demands of the project may have on public trust fresh or brackish waters.
Irrigation for the site is projected at an average of 129,000 gpd. This will come from Makena Resort non-potable (brackish) wells in the Makena golf course offsite of the project. The DEA does not indicate what the capacity of those wells are; if additional pumping is expected to affect their salinity levels; or if testing has been done to determine if increased pumping would affect underground flows to the nearshore waters.

This level of missing information does not appear to meet the standards set by HAR 11-200-10.

Similarly the DEA gives no information about the current and near future demands on the private Makena Wastewater facility. All we are told is that it has a 720,000 gpd capacity and the proposed project will only generate 50,000 gpd of effluent to send to the plant. Public information tells us that the Makena Beach and Golf Club is expanding its residences and spa and proposing a new small hotel, but the DEA does not mention how much wastewater plant capacity that project will need. It is also public knowledge that the neighboring Honua’ula development (1150 to 1400 units) is planning to use the Makena Wastewater Plant. This is never mentioned in the wastewater analyses in the DEA.

How can decision makers conclude that the project has “no significant impacts” if they have no real comparative information concerning water resources, sewage system impacts etc. to base that review on?

The DEA has Traffic Analyses that assumes 90% (133) of the 148 residential unit will be owned by offshore investors who will only utilize the properties 20% of the time. (around 80 residents at any one time plus 40 TVR guests.) There is not an alternative traffic scenario analyses offered that would assume that these ocean view units would be rented out when owners were not using them, like thousands of other Maui beach area properties.

It defies logic that a whole shopping village will be constructed to serve around 200 residents and whatever visitors come by. How will these businesses survive? The DEA does not discuss the possibility that the Makena Village will not be built later until the upper properties of Makena are developed and the new boutique hotel and luxury condos on the Maui Prince site are built. If that is the case, then those projects should definitely be discussed along with the 47 acre project in a new,full EIS.

No recreational use study of the area is provided in the DEA, yet it concludes that the project conforms to the objectives of the Coastal Zone Management permit it seeks to obtain.

Likewise the DEA concludes that no viewplanes from pubic roads will be impacted. The DEA does acknowledge that Makena Alanui Road, in the vicinity of the project site, is listed as a “high” value scenic corridor by the County of Maui’s Maui Island Plan. What is lacking is a realistic analyses of the project’s impacts on the scenic views.

The DEA has a map which shows many 40’ to 50’ condominiums to be built along the mauka boundary of this SMA project and the heights of the buildings are discussed. The buildings appear to be crowded up against the highway, due to the steeply sloped land and the limited areas for large buildings. This maximizes the views from the condo apartments at the expense of the general public traveling along the Makena Alanui road. The buildings are generally parallel to the highway, rather than perpendicular, which would allow more space (views) between the buildings.

The DEA has maps which show the elevation of the highway immediately mauka of the many buildings and the base elevation of each building. These maps clearly show that these 4 to 50 ft high buildings will totally block the majority of any possible view from the highway in the ocean direction.

The DEA has some very misleading diagrams showing extensive view corridors between the various proposed condo buildings. Current views are described as “blocked by foliage.” We do not agree. We lead Sierra Club hikes in this area and recently made a video of the experience of walking along the Makena Alanui side walk from the north to south end of the project site. The video shows that this section of the road currently provides great scenic views for pedestrians and motorists along the route. South Maui views of the ocean have been very impacted by luxury coastal residences. The DEA should be discussing alternative project designs, building heights and and densities that would mitigate this potential loss of public views.

In reading the Design Guidelines for the project it is clear that the guidelines focus is to protect the views of the owners of future luxury units, even if the views for the general public are being sacrificed.

HAR 11-200-12 “Significance criteria” notes that if a proposed project “Substantially affects scenic vistas and viewplanes,an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needs to be prepared and an Environmental Assessment is not considered sufficient to mitigate impacts.
Scenic vistas and view planes must be discussed and mitigated in an EIS. There are alternatives that could be explored.

Cultural practitioners tell us that many important cultural sites are still unrecorded on the property and other sites are recorded, but are not properly documented to reveal their true significance. We are also concerned that the DEA makes no provision for the protection of the historic Makena-Ulupalakua road.

The Planning Commission needs to decide if this project will have no significant impacts (FONSI), or if its overall and cumulative effects shall, among other things: involve an irrevocable commitment to loss or destruction of any natural or cultural resource. HAR 11-200-12 Significance criteria notes that any project that involves that loss, must prepare a full EIS.

The Project area includes Maui’s most famous historic road, the Makena Landing-Ulupalakua Road, originally constructed in the 1850’s through a specific right of way, Royal Patent 223 granted to Linton Torbert by Kamehmeha III. This road has been used by many generations of Maui residents and many famous visitors to Rose Ranch in Ulupalakua, such as King Kalakaua and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Makena DEA map shows that the makai portion of Grant 223 passes right through Parcel M-5 of the proposed development. The Makena-Ulupalakua Road is shown on the TMK map for the property. It is visible on Google Earth. In the Archaeological Survey, it was given a site number (7057) and evaluated as having site significance Criterion “A” which means it is a “Site associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of history.” Why can’t this project find a design that protects this important historic site rather than replace it with a luxury condo building, “members-only” pool and “shade hale” that no one on Maui needs?
The DEA does not discuss any alternative project designs that would include preservation of the road corridor .

The loss of this portion of an iconic historical road is not even discussed in the DEA, Nor is the fate of the remainder of the road right of way mauka of the project site on Makena Resort land. No mitigation is offered. Under the 1892 Highways Act, this road is considered a public road, and entitled to preservation.

Many Sierra Club members and supporters 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.

Historic roads are also considered worthy of protection under the Kihei-Makena Community Plan. The Plan has objectives under the “Cultural Resources” section that requires development projects to: “Preserve and restore historical roads and paths as cultural resources, and require such resources to be available to the public.”

The Kihei-Makena Plan also directs that “Ancient Trails/Old Government Roads” in the South Maui area “should be identified for preservation…” The Community Plan specifically described Makena Landing, where this road led as “one of the three busiest leeward ports of Maui in the nineteenth century” because many steamers stopped there.

The “Makena Landing sites” are also noted as worthy of preservation by name in the Cultural Resources section of the Plan. These are recorded on a cultural resources map that is an adopted part of the Kihei-Makena community plan.

Sites at Makena Landing recorded in the 1970’s and 1980s are shown on that map. They are labelled “Makena Landing Sites.” They include around a dozen sites on the 47 acre property proposed for this development. Only 4 of these 11 sites across the 47 acres are proposed to be preserved in the Makena Resort AIS and DEA. Two of the seven are slated for “data recovery” before destruction. The importance of these sites to the community is never acknowledged in the DEA or the AIS.

Other historically known and recorded significant sites also are found on this land. Site 7075 is on Parcel B-2. It is a portion of the ‘Aupuni (Kingdom Government) wall constructed by Hawaii’s longest ruling monarch, Kamehameha III. It’s located near the Kalani Heiau site (the heiau is on a privately owned parcel.) This wall is one of the few remaining public works project of the Kingdom era in south Maui. It is over 300 feet long and it is not even recognized for its historical importance in the project’s AIS or Draft EA. The ‘Aupuni road was built in a similar era and ran from Ulupalakua to Keawala’i church. No effort was made by the project consultants to even look for any remains of this historically important traditional trail.

The DEA, quoting the project’s Cultural Impact Assessment, denies any cultural use of the site and does not discuss any provisions for cultural access. Preserved sites are seen as “features” in the project’s landscape rather than as part of a cultural landscape that should be designed to protect its cultural integrity and use by future generations. There is no discussion of a project design that respects the presently existing cultural landscape of the Makena Landing Sites and the intent of the Kihei-Makena Community Plan.

The Cultural Impact Assessment has limited and inaccurate information (for example, it states an incorrect location for Pohakuhaha heiau.) While some members of the Makena community were consulted, many younger lineal descendants were never reached. Also, the concerns of members of the project’s Cultural Committee do not appear to be have resulted in clear recommendations in the CIA. The CIA should be supplemented to add the knowledge of more lineal descendants and reflect local desires to protect the ‘aupuni wall and other important cultural features of the area.

The Sustainability Report claims that natural lava outcrops will be retained rather than covered with earth in order to reduce the amount of irrigation needed. Many of the documented and undocumented cultural sites on the 47 acres are associated with these lava outcrops. A more detailed irrigation plan should be presented that indicates natural outcrops that will be avoided and correlates these to sites that are present and can be avoided.

The Design Guideline section of the DEA states that single family lot owners will be required to retain the historic rock walls that past through their lots. This is not consistent with the language in the project’s AIS that grants most of the walls found on the 47 acre site very little significance and proposes no preservation. The walls are a very important part of the Kingdom era on these lands and all should be preserved as part of the SHPD preservation plan, and included in the new project to give it a sense of place.

In closing, we believe that this project as proposed may have a significant effect on the environment since it will negatively affect public view planes, could impact water resources and ocean water quality and will destroy cultural sites that the Kihei-Makena Community Plan recommends for protection. Our laws make it clear that if a project will involve the loss or destruction of any natural or cultural resource, it must complete a full EIS to appropriately disclose and mitigate those impacts. We ask the landowners to follow the law and prepare an EIS for this project that includes an updated AIS and CIA, discusses alternative project designs that protect the cultural landscape, ocean water quality and public viewplanes and includes a discussion of surrounding Makena Resort ands and their relationship to this project.

Mahalo for this opportunity to comment

Lucienne de Naie
Conservation Chair,Sierra Club Maui Group