The Land Use Committee of the Maui County Council heard testimony on Wednesday, Feb. 5, relating to a request by Alexander & Baldwin Properties (A&B) for a community plan amendment for approximately 94.3 acres in North Kihei.
If granted, the amendment would change the zoning on the parcels of land from agricultural to apartment, residential and a small amount of neighborhood business use. Under discussion was the construction of an estimated 600 units of new housing intended to be a mix of single-family detached and multi-family residential units aimed at the local market.
Councilman Don Guzman chaired the meeting in the absence of Committee Chair Robert Carroll, who was in the hospital. Also present were Council members Gladys Baisa, Stacy Crivello, Elle Cochran, Don Couch and Mike White. Excused were members Riki Hokama and Mike Victorino.
Grant Chun, A&B Maui vice president, listened to testimony at the recent Maui County Council Land Use Committee meeting, which reviewed zoning for 600 units of affordable housing proposed for North Kīhei along Kaiwahine Street mauka of the Pi‘lani Highway. Chun said in an email the estimated value of the project is about $200 million. As yet the proposed development has no name.
The proposed residential project, which would front a small portion mauka of the Pi'ilani Highway, is bounded on one side by Kaiwahine Street and nearby existing residential areas, and on the other side by the Waiakoa Gulch and intensive agricultural use by HC&S (an agricultural division of A&B), Monsanto and Haleakala Ranch.
A&B Maui Vice President Grant Chun said in an email that the value of the new construction is estimated at about $200 million. The project, he said, is still in the conceptual stage and has no formal name. The price of the new units is projected to be in the $300,000 to $600,000 range, according to Mike Munekiyo of Munekiyo and Hiraga Inc., a planning consultant retained by A&B.
Testimony was received from 13 people, including neighborhood residents, representatives of the building trades and members of local community groups.
In general, the testimony favored the project, but a number of serious concerns were frequently mentioned. Among the issues most cited was the potential for a "choke point" of traffic coming in and out onto Kaiwahine, where it intersects with Pi'ilani Highway. This concern was raised repeatedly by South Maui Councilmember Couch, who clearly indicated his feeling that the preliminary plans for the intersection of Kaiwahine and Pi'ilani were inadequate.
Also mentioned many times by those who testified was the need for mitigation of dust and other conditions produced by the directly adjacent agricultural users.
The subject of cane burning, pesticide drift and the possible harmful effects of intensive agricultural use on the nearby residential population has been the subject of intense controversy in other recent meetings of council held to consider new pesticide and GMO (genetically modified organism) regulations.
The need for windbreaks, trees and notice to prospective buyers that they could expect major ongoing impacts from their agricultural neighbors were among the points raised by those who spoke.
Testimony by Tom Croly and Marc Drehsen (who said he lived within a half-mile of the site) both specifically mentioned the need for a buffer zone to be created prior to any approval.
"I hope the council will reconsider," said Dreshen. "This is not a good place to build."
Also frequently mentioned was the need to have more exits from the project, which, as presently configured, only has one way in and out.
Lt. Scott English of the Maui Fire Department advised council members that a second exit is mandatory, but felt that the details would be worked out during the subdivision phase, if and when the developer was granted the requested change in zoning.
Steve Baker, the first to testify, mentioned the steep and rapid rise in both rents and the cost of homes and condos in the nearby area, which, he said, had increased by as much as 20 to 30 percent in recent months. Baker urged the council to give favorable consideration to the A&B project.
Both Tyler Dos Santos Tam, executive director of the Hawai'i Building Industry Alliance, and Bruce U'u, apprenticeship coordinator for the Hawai'i Carpenters Union, spoke in favor of the zoning. These sentiments were echoed by Scott Sakakihara and Zandra Amaral Crouse. A number of other speakers also voiced support for the new housing as much needed by local residents.
Less enthusiastic was Mike Moran, president of the Kihei Community Association (KCA), who said the project had been reviewed by the KCA with comments posted on their Website and transmitted to the developer. Moran also had concerns about traffic. He also said the project did not make adequate provisions for new schools, and stated that Kihei's two elementary schools are presently at capacity. He also called for safe pedestrian routes between the project and the schools across the Pi'ilani Highway. He requested the council to postpone decision-making until these and other concerns could be adequately addressed.
Also speaking against the project was Dick Mayer. Mayer said the council should look at the whole range of projects proposed for Kihei and give their approval to those which best meet the community's long-range goals. He voiced his support for projects such as the expansion of the Maui Research & Technology Park, where homes and jobs are in close proximity, schools are included in the master plan and the overall concept has a high degree of connectivity--as well as walk-able and bike-able routes. Mayer said that A&B has a "long list of other projects (that have received entitlements) aimed at the same market that have not been built. He urged the committee to "turn it down."
Also heard from as a resource person was Dave Taylor, director of the county Department of Water Supply, who reiterated that the developer was responsible to find water for the project, and if no water was available, then there would be no building.
"It's their responsibility," Taylor said. "We're aware of their interest and we're waiting to see what comes to fruition."
Taylor also noted that the state Land Use Commission had made the initial change from agricultural to urban in February 2009, and that the decision carried a requirement that the project be completed within 10 years from that date.
Asked about coordination with the state on the traffic issues, David Goode, director of the county Department of Public Works, noted that the state Department of Transportation had already submitted a list of seven recommended conditions related to the project--some of which he felt were redundant.
Both Councilmember Cochran and Couch had concerns about possible flooding, noting that the area has had several extreme weather events in recent years that resulted in many complaints.
Said Goode, "You're always going to get complaints. It doesn't mean they're relevant (to the actual situation)."
Couch responded, "You can say that. You don't get voted in, but we do."
No action was taken and the discussion is expected to continue at a later date.