KAHULUI - The proposed Piilani Promenade retail centers in Kihei could generate around four times as much traffic during peak afternoon and evening hours compared to the area's originally proposed light industrial subdivision, a state transportation planning manager said Friday.
Ken Tatsuguchi of the state Department of Transportation told state Land Use Commission members that under a 1994 traffic impact analysis, developers of the light industrial project saw peak trip generation in the area at 700 trips at peak morning and afternoon/evening hours.
But with the proposed retail development in north Kihei, a new traffic impact analysis shows 700 trips in the peak morning hours and 2,900 trips during the peak afternoon/evening hours, said Tatsuguchi, a witness called by the state Office of Planning.
A traffic engineer for the developers of the retail establishments agreed with Tatsuguchi's numbers, but he said that the improvements that the developers would make on and around Piilani Highway, near the shopping centers, would accommodate not only the centers' traffic generation but also vehicles from other proposed projects along the highway and traffic from the planned Kihei-Upcountry highway.
Phillip Rowell, a witness called by the developers, said that highway improvements would include two left-hand turning lanes into the center that wouldn't cause a backup on Piilani Highway and acceleration and deceleration lanes to help cars ease in and out of traffic entering and exiting the malls.
Rowell said the developers continue to work with state transportation officials on planning traffic improvements.
The Kihei shopping center projects have come before the commission for an "order to show cause" because opponents and the state Office of Planning maintain that the current project is substantially different than what was originally approved by the commission in the early 1990s.
State Office of Planning Director Jesse Souki asked Rowell on cross-examination why he didn't use only the 1994 traffic reports.
"First of all, we are talking about a different project," Rowell replied.
He added that things have changed over the years, including the widening of Piilani Highway and new projects have been proposed in the area.
Rowell and Tatsuguchi were two of five witnesses who testified Friday in a second day of commission proceedings at the Courtyard by Marriott Maui Airport hotel in Kahului.
The commission is seeking to determine whether the current projects comply with 20 conditions imposed on the 88-acre development in 1995 when former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch presented the project as a light industrial development. At the time, the commission agreed to a land reclassification from agricultural to urban. During that time, plans called for a 123-lot light industrial subdivision including some retail businesses.
Since then, the land has changed hands and California-based Eclipse Development Group is proposing two shopping centers totaling 700,000 square feet of retail space. Also proposed on the site is a 250-unit affordable housing project planned by Honua'ula Partners to meet a requirement tied to its master-planned luxury golf community of the same name above Wailea.
A challenge from community groups South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and Maui Tomorrow Foundation and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele prompted the commission to revisit the site's approvals.
The opponents contend that the developments now being proposed are substantially different from what Kaonoulu Ranch represented to the LUC. Neither the developers of the planned retail centers nor the affordable housing project have formally petitioned the commission to proceed with their projects.
Also on Friday, Charlie Jencks, a liaison for Eclipse, told commissioners in testimony that when he was a member of the LUC, he understood there would be changes to plans they reviewed.
Jencks said that when he was deputy director for the county Department of Public Works in 1994, he attended the LUC hearing involving Kaonoulu Ranch's plans for the 123-lot light industrial subdivision.
Jencks, who was called as witness by the developers on Friday, said he did not have any ties to the developers or the plans in 1994.
He said the LUC more than 15 years ago did not set a limit or make any restrictions on the retail portion of the project.
During the commission's nearly 4 1/2-hour meeting, Tatsuguchi and Rowell agreed that a frontage road parallel to Piilani Highway in the area of the development was not needed and would actually cause more problems with traffic at the Kaonoulu Street and Piilani Highway intersection.
The frontage road was among the 20 conditions the LUC imposed on Kaonoulu Ranch when it approved its petition in 1995.
The LUC hearing on the matter will continue, with tentative meetings scheduled for Nov. 15 and 16.
Jencks is scheduled to continue his testimony.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.