Wailea 670/Honua’ula EIS Accepted

Sierra Club Maui has submitted extensive comments on the Wailea 670 EIS through the whole process. Thanks to our comments, some parts of the EIS were improved.

The Maui PlanningCommission, as accepting authority, reviewed the Final EIS yesterday. Several areas of the EIS were clearly inadequate or evasive, however, the Planning Depart staff told the Commission it was complete, the Commissioners asked questions for a few hours, and then voted to accept it.

Below are Maui Group comments. They are consistent with our past comments that Chapter 343 actually requires examination of alternative actions to include “a rigorous exploration and objective evaluation of the environmental benefits and costs of the proposed action..

Our comments noted that the alternative of a 130 acre preserve and a development footprint of 540 acres did not receive factual analyses but was dismissed through unsupported assumptions. For example, the EIS stated that a “substantial number” of units would need to be relocated, but gave no specific number.

The analyses did not provide any discussion of infrastructure costs that could be avoided for roads, sewer hook ups, water lines, etc if the 130 acres did not have housing development and what tradeoff that would be to offset costs of providing the additional infrastructure in the northern 80% of the property.

We submitted an alternative project design map showing the southern 20% of the parcel as preserve, but with four and a half proposed golf course holes in that section left in place. The rational for this was that the number of holes in this section was originally proposed to be 10. Then it was eight, then six, now four and a half. Golf course greens, while not ideal for cultural preservation, are somewhat flexible.

The FEIS’s strongest case against leaving the 130 acres as preserve was that it could force the whole golf course to be eliminated as well as eliminate the proposed holding ponds to mix brackish and reclaimed water.

By leaving the holes on the map, that argument disappears. CH 343 requires that alternatives be considered even if they cost more.

If 504 Single Family lots, which are now proposed to be sprawled over a total 274 acres, were compacted by 50 acres and all fit into the northern 80% of the land, the 50 acres now proposed for single family view homes in the southern 20% of the land where the 130 acre preserve is needed, could be left as native plant habitat.

Instead of a 130 acre preserve, W670 is proposing a 40-acre native habitat easement in the southern 20% of the land. This area leaves out many concentrations of native plants. They are “offsetting” that loss by offering to fence around 250 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch Land in Kanaio. W670 spokesman, Jencks told the Maui Planning Commission that he is letting Ulupalakua Ranch use his W670 well waters for construction water during the ‘Auwahi windmill road building, in “trade” for this easement.

USFWS still wants the 130 acres, (July 3, 2012 letter) but may be under pressure to settle for 40. What is not being discussed in the Wailea 670 Final EIS is the fact that the Kanaio habitat is at 3,000 foot elevation , while the Palauea -Keauhou habitat (Wailea 670) is located between 400 and 800 ft elevation. These are the rarest dryland habitats. It is these lowland habitats for the endangered Blackburn sphinx moths and various native dryland forest plants that USFWS and others hope to keep viable. The lands of Wailea 670 are an important link because they are located between Puu o Kali and Ahihi-Kinau dryland forest preserve areas.

This is why most of the southern 20% of Wailea 670 lands are being proposed for critical habitat by the USFWS for the rare awikiwiki vine as it is being evaluated to be listed as an endangered species. To shrink the possible habitat available in Wailea 670, just does not make biological sense. To redesign the project, while it is still in a relatively fluid state, does make sense.

Sierra Club Comments on Wailea 670 EIS follow:

From: Lucienne de Naie July 24, 2012
Sierra Club Maui Group
P.O. Box 610
Haiku, HI 96708

To: Maui County Planning Commission

Re: Honua’ula LLC Final EIS Hearing

Greetings Chair Hiranaga and Commission Members,

One of the main purposes of an EIS is to analyze alternatives to the proposed action.

• The Honua’ula Draft EIS discussed six alternative proposals, but included no plan with a 130 acre preserve. Maui Planning Commission asked the applicants to include this alternative in the FEIS.

The Honua’ula Final EIS included the 130 acre preserve design option specified in its conditions of zoning, but dismissed it by providing broad generalizations, rather than factual comparisons.

We ask that the Commission not find this section acceptable.

Our laws specify a very different approach, asking that

1) “particular attention be given to alternatives that enhance environmental quality, avoid, reduce or minimize some or all of the project’s adverse environmental affects, costs and risks…”

2) “rigorous exploration and objective evaluation of the environmental impacts..” and

  1. “Analysis shall be sufficiently detailed to allow the comparative evaluation..”

The project design of Wailea 670 is governed by four documents.

  1. the State LUC Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (1994)
  2. Title 19.90A of Maui County Code which defines Project District 9 in the Kihei-Makena Community Plan
  3. Ordinance No. 3554 which sets out 30 standard and project specific conditions for Project District 9
  4. Kihei-Makena Community Plan

Condition 27 of Ordinance 3554 requires a “preservation/mitigation plan for the conservation of native Hawaiian plants and significant cultural sites in Kihei-Makena Project District 9..” be established by easement in perpetuity. A minimum preservation standard is defined as …”The Easement shall comprise the portion of the property south of latitude 20°40’15.00″N, excluding any portions that the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Corps of Engineers find do not merit preservation, but shall not be less than 18 acres and shall not exceed 130 acres.”

We are submitting, for purposes of discussion, a map that portrays the project with the130 acre preservation standard with three and a half golf course holes incorporated into the preservation area design. The single family and multi family homes proposed within the 130 acre preservation area, as defined above, would be shifted to the northern 540 acres of the project.

Most advocates of “Smart Growth” favor compact development patterns such as this map suggests, to minimize costs of distribution of infrastructure, road building etc. and protect unique resources. The EIS should analyze this option and supply adequate financial estimates of costs to permit an actual comparison of options. A value should also be placed on the existing 130 acre dryland forest ecosystem and its biological services.

  • This design would not eliminate the golf course and its drainage and water storage capacities in the Southern portion of the project.
  • Would avoid costly road building, sewer pipe installation, potable water delivery and extensive site grading in the roughest terrain on the souther 20% of the property.
  • Could cut down on overall non- potable water needs.

• Would allow historic Kalama-Kanaio Road to remain along its present alignment rather than be rerouted as is presently proposed and conform to the map in Title 19.90A.

  • Would satisfy condition 27 and provide protection for native ecosystem as well as the numerous documented and undocumented cultural sites. Could save costly cultural site preservation plan implementation.
  • Would not significantly reduce the number of permits housing units.
  • Would conform with the combined guidelines of the three governing documents.
  • Could provide a wilderness park area which could enhance property values and be eligible for funding programs.

The FEIS does not inform us of the number of proposed homes in the 130 acre preserve , so our discussion is based on theoretical numbers until those specifics are provided to this Commission and the public as is required for “analyses sufficiently detailed to allow the comparative evaluation” of alternatives.

The density parameters in documents defining the project have flexibility. In Title 19.90A the minimum lot size in the SF subdistrict is 7,500 sq ft,. The FEIS speaks to having SF lot sizes between 7,000 and 20,000 sq ft. Ordinance 3554 specifies an average density of 2.5 units /ac or less and the LUC Findings of Fact specify SF at 3.1 to 4.1 units/ac.

While the LUC approved a document that proposed 2,000 units, two golf courses and several lodges on site, both the proposed plan and the LUC version have the range of SF units around 500. One solution to shifting the proposed SF units from the Preserve to the North would be to pursue the average density specified in the LUC approval: 3 units/acre instead of the average density in Ord. 3554 of 2.5 units/ac.

The shift of the Multifamily units could be considered in several ways, once again, the proposed unit count would need to be known. The VMX subdistrict is defined in all the documents as a:

“..community center comprised of a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational and community facilities serving the needs of residents and guests.”

The FEIS refers to the residential use in the VMX district, but does not assign one housing unit to the VMX district. If the MF units from the Preservation area were shifted into the VMX zone, even at the low density of 6 units/ac above proposed businesses and shops at least 150 MF units could be accommodated on 25 of the 53 acres of VMX. Only 196 market priced MF units are proposed on 60 acres. If half (100) were proposed for the preserve area, it would seem feasible to accommodate them through this shift. This would create a VMX which actually fits the description proposed, without pushing more density into the existing MF areas.

Sierra Club Maui urges the Commission to request that the applicant consider this alternative design option in the EIS.


Lucienne de Naie

Sierra Club Conservation Committee.