By a vote of six to one, the Hawaii Land Use Commission (LUC) voted late yesterday to reject the Olowalu Town project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The vote on the decade-old proposal to add 1,500 homes and about 4,000 residents to tiny Olowalu came at the end of a marathon hearing at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center that last around 12 hours (click here for our recent cover story on just 25 of the myriad problems with the proposed project).
“It was quite an ordeal,” Albert Perez, the executive director of Maui Tomorrow, which has long opposed the project, told me. “I sat in the LUC hearing for 12 hours. Well, if you count leaving for lunch, then it was 11 hours.”
For activist and Sierra Club Maui member Lucienne de Naie, who also attended, the vote was both welcome and somewhat surprising. “I’ve only seen three times when they turned down an EIS,” she said.
According to Perez and De Naie, much of the day was taken up by witnesses called by Olowalu Town developers Bill Frampton and Dave Ward. To be fair, much of earlier LUC hearings last month on the project were open to public testimony, but for the many dozens of people who wanted to speak out on the controversial project, sitting through a day of the developers’ witnesses–and subsequent questioning by LUC members–was grueling, Perez and De Naie said.
In any case, the LUC’s vote isn’t by itself the end of the Olowalu Town project. Frampton and Ward can still appeal the ruling to the state Environmental Council (and possibly to the courts should that prove fruitless). De Naie said she they could also withdraw their Final EIS and either revise it or do a supplemental EIS.
A representative from Frampton and Ward’s Olowalu Town LLC didn’t respond to an email inquiry on their plans by press time.
Photo: Chris Archer