WAILUKU - The Maui Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a special management area permit for Costco to expand its Kahului store, a project that would include a gas station and carwash.
Costco representatives said they hoped to start construction in January and to open the expanded facility by next summer. The store plans to acquire a 4.1-acre site from landowner A&B to the east of the existing 17-acre lot, and developers would dig their own well in order to access brackish water for irrigation.
Earlier in the day, commissioners dismissed a petition to intervene by Dairy Road Partners, which operates the nearby Superstop gas station. The Superstop owners had said the expansion would cause increased traffic congestion on Dairy Road, hurting their business. But planning commissioners said the owners' economic interest wasn't enough to qualify them as an intervener, and that their concern over traffic wasn't any greater than the general public's.
Costco shoppers wait for the Kahului store’s doors to open Tuesday morning. The Maui Planning Commission approved a special management area permit for Costco to expand its warehouse and to build a gas station and carwash. Costco representatives said they hoped to start construction in January and to open the expanded facility by next summer.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"They're no different than the other testimony we heard this morning," said Commissioner Warren Shibuya.
Costco officials said the company needed to expand to serve a growing customer base. They estimated that there were as many as 91,000 Costco cardholders on Maui - almost 90 percent of the island's adult resident population.
Jaime Havron, general manager of the store, said the Kahului Costco was "one of the busiest in the world and one of the smallest in square footage."
"We need space," he said.
Officials said the expansion would add more than 18,000 square feet of additional warehouse space, including room for a new deli section, an outdoor food service area with an expanded menu, expanded produce and prepared foods sections, and a hearing aids center, along with additional parking. Developers also said the project would include an electric car charging station.
Jack Frank, vice president of real estate and development for Costco Wholesale, said the store, which opened in 1995, currently has 356 employees, and with the expansion would add another 110 jobs.
Costco officials and development consultants detailed drainage plans for the project, which include isolating rainwater from the gas station under-canopy area and running it through an oil-and-water separator before releasing it into a runoff channel that runs through the lot.
While some testifiers questioned the project's impact on traffic along already-clogged Dairy Road, planning consultants noted that access for the expanded Costco complex would continue to be along Haleakala Highway, avoiding the most congested intersections in the area.
Planning commissioners praised Costco's plans for its underground fuel tanks, which include tanks and fuel lines built to withstand earthquake-type force, weights to prevent the tanks from floating away in severe floods, and a leak-detection system that exceeds federal requirements.
"I see some very good features here," Shibuya said.
While some commissioners said they were concerned about approving projects that might push back construction for years for economic reasons, Frank said Costco was ready to start and planned to pay cash for the project rather than seek outside financing.
"We're serious. We're anxious. We're raring to go," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.