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Ritz-Carlton Kapalua renovation plans approved


Wednesday, April 18, 2007 11:33 AM

 LAHAINA – Maui planning commissioners approved renovation plans for the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua on Monday, but that only came after hotel officials calmed suspicions that the project would be a time-share complex or add to development of the area.

Former County Council Member Wayne Nishiki and members of the Save Honolua Coalition attacked the renovation plans at a Planning Commission meeting held Monday night at the Lahaina Civic Center.

“We need you people to be more vigilant,” Nishiki said, encouraging planning commissioners to question burial sites on the hotel property and the motivation behind the renovation.

Nishiki charged that the renovations were necessary because the hotel was “sinking” and suffered from structural deficiencies. He also claimed that there were up to 25 Hawaiian burial sites in the area.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua representatives defended the renovations, saying Nishiki is confusing burial sites discovered in the renovation of the Kapalua Bay Hotel. Inadvertent discoveries of burials at the Kapalua Bay have been documented and are under review by the Maui-Lanai Islands Burial Council.

The Ritz-Carlton officials said the hotel addressed the structural deficiencies with renovations completed in the early 1990s, and its current architect is satisfied with the improvements.

Still, concerns about time-share conversions and overdevelopment surfaced, fueled by plans announced by Maui Land & Pineapple to develop its land around Honolua Bay and Lipoa Point.

“Our island is not looking too good in my eyes,” said Elle Cochran, the president of Save Honolua Coalition, a grass-roots group aimed at preserving and protecting the Honolua-Lipoa Point area on Maui where a private golf course and luxury homes are planned.

Cochran said the Ritz-Carlton plans are one of a slew of projects that will only aggravate the island’s infrastructural shortfalls in water supply, adequate roadways and sewage capacity.

“Just more of everything . . . It’s disheartening to see,” she said.

Alan Akana of Napilihau said he and his neighbors don’t want any further development in West Maui, especially of time shares and luxury homes for millionaires.

“We need low-income to affordable housing,” Akana said.

Shawn Reid, a West Maui resident and member of the Save Honolua Coalition, said he was concerned about the loss of open space and was opposed to the development of luxury homes for part-time residents.

“This project is not about more. It’s really about better,” explained Scott Lee, senior vice president of SB Architects, the firm hired to work on the renovations.

In the end, the Planning Commission granted Ritz-Carlton’s request for a special management area use permit and a Project District II approval or site plan improvements for proposed lobby and common area improvements.

Renovation plans cover the main public areas of the hotel, including the lobby lounge, bar and sushi bar; expansion of the Terrace Restaurant and the hotel’s existing spa facilities; a new fitness center, gourmet market and luau area; a new Environmental Education Center and installation of a temporary sales trailer in the existing parking lot.

One wing, which now has approximately 250 guest rooms, will be rebuilt as 166 suites or condominium hotel rooms. The average sale price for each condo was estimated at $1.5 million.

The redevelopment including the condominium conversion involves a reconfiguration of the ownership of the resort under Kapalua/Gengate Holdings LLC, a partnership in which Maui Land & Pineapple Co. has a 21.5 percent interest. ML&P sold the 49-acre Ritz-Carlton site to the partnership for $25 million on March 28.

Plans call for the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua to undergo renovations from July through December. The hotel would reopen by the first week of January in time for the annual Mercedes-Benz Championship in Kapalua.

Planning commissioners were assured the Ritz-Carlton would work hard to minimize loss of pay for employees laid off from work during the planned six-month renovation they hope to begin July 2. The majority or about 580 of the 700 workers are expected to be off the job temporarily.

Lee said he did not expect all of the approved renovations to be completed in 2007. The work would instead be phased in over the course of the five-year period of the SMA permit.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua General Manager Javier Cano said the hotel would provide work at the renovation site to any employees unable to find temporary jobs.

Representatives of the ILWU testified in support of the Ritz-Carlton’s renovation plans, saying the hotel has been transparent with its intentions including reinstating all laid off workers after a $96 million renovation was completed on the property.

The union has been assured that employees will retain seniority on return to Ritz-Carlton and that their benefits including health insurance, life insurance and retirement funds, will be paid during the renovation period, according to ILWU Maui Division Director William Kennison.

“That means a lot to the employees,” Kennison said.

Michael Spath, unit chairman for the 450-plus ILWU members at the Ritz-Carlton, said the hotel owners and management have also been supportive by sponsoring a job fair on site. More than 31 employers including hotels in South and West Maui and businesses like Star Market have signed up to participate.

Cano said he was confident that all Ritz-Carlton employees in need of temporary work would find jobs, especially since the hotel has agreed to pay for benefits.

In other action, the Planning Commission postponed a decision on a separate request for a special management area use permit and Project District Phase II approval for the proposed Kapalua Central Resort Project.

Planning commissioners listened to testimony that was supportive and others who expressed concern about traffic issues relating to the project featuring a mix of multifamily residential units and commercial facilities.

The request for the Central Resort Project was scheduled for continued hearing at a commission meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Planning Department conference room in Wailuku.



Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at


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