KAHULUI - Islands Hospice is slated to open Maui's first inpatient hospice home once it begins accepting patients this fall at its Kahului branch, but some neighbors are concerned that having hospice next to their homes might affect traffic and children.
Trini Ancheta, who lives on Makalii Street a few houses down from the proposed care home, said situating a hospice facility in a residential area "doesn't make sense." She said the proposed seven-patient facility would bring added traffic to a normally quiet neighborhood where children often play in the street.
"The hospice should be put in a recreational area, not residential," said Ancheta, who's lived in the neighborhood for more than 10 years.
Islands Hospice’s care home is in a residential area. Some neighbors are concerned about the facility’s possible negative impacts, such as traffic in the quiet neighborhood.
The Maui News / EILEEN CHAO photo
Construction on Islands Hospice’s new Kahului care home is nearly complete. It will begin accepting up to five patients this fall, the nonprofit said.
The Maui News / EILEEN CHAO photo
She added that she and other parents are concerned about their children and grandchildren, who "are going to be scared" living next to a hospice, where patients go for end-of-life care. She said neighbors organized a strike earlier this month, which drew about 30 people including children.
A spokeswoman for Islands Hospice said the Oahu-based nonprofit is not aware there have been any complaints or concerns, but assured residents that "we are going to be extraordinarily good neighbors."
"We're not a noisy neighbor coming in. We really do respect the neighborhood," said spokeswoman Michelle Bowerman. "(For) most people, if they didn't already know we were a hospice home, they wouldn't know that we're a hospice home."
She said neighbors will "not be seeing anything really unusual" such as coffins frequenting the home, and the facility would not likely bring any more traffic than a family having people come over.
"It's not like a hospital," she said.
Islands Hospice operates one other care home in upper Palolo Valley on Oahu, which has not received any complaints from neighbors since opening in 2012, Bowerman said. She said she expects the same relationship on Maui once the Kahului care home opens.
The new facility will have seven private patient care rooms, a large family room, dining room, chapel and outdoor meditation areas, according to Islands Hospice's website. The project is expected to cost $825,000, according to State Health Planning and Development Agency filings.
It's not uncommon for neighborhood conflicts to arise when a health care facility is put in the middle of a residential community, said Hospice Maui Chief Executive Officer Greg LaGoy.
That's why Hospice Maui, which is expected to break ground on its own $1.6 million, five-patient care home by early September, chose to build its facility next to existing Hospice Maui offices on leased county land in Wailuku.
"Even though it'd be much more expensive and a lot of red tape we had to deal with in doing this, it's the right thing to do," LaGoy said, adding that construction for the project had been delayed a few months due to complications with an environmental assessment, which Islands Hospice did not have to do.
Hospice Maui filed a judicial appeal against Islands Hospice last year, alleging that the abbreviated administrative review process the state used to review the incoming hospice's application was flawed and did not give the community an opportunity to voice its opinions. A 2nd Circuit Court judge dismissed the challenge in May.
LaGoy said building a care home in a residential area is oftentimes cheaper and a much easier process, thanks to a state law that allows a hospice home with up to five patients to operate in a residential area without obtaining a conditional use permit, variance or special exception from the county.
Though the Kahului facility will have seven patient rooms, Islands Hospice plans to serve only five patients at a time, until it can obtain the proper zoning permits from the county. Officials did not know when that would be.
Department of Planning Deputy Director Michele Chouteau McLean said that if Islands Hospice wants to bump its patient intake to seven, it would need to obtain a special use permit, which must be approved by the Maui Planning Commission. The public would have a chance to testify at that hearing.
Until then, though, McLean said the incoming hospice home is within its purview to construct and operate at the location it has chosen.
"As long as they're operating with no more than five clients, then it's allowed. There really isn't anything (the county can do). It's like telling someone they can't have a house with bedrooms," McLean said.
Not all neighbors think having a hospice home on their street is such a bad idea, though.
"I have no problem at all (with the hospice)," said Lee Takamiya, who's lived on Makalii Street for 30 years. "If I needed it, I'd want someplace to go."
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.