LUC is expected to reject Kahoma project

The state Land Use Commission is expected to issue a formal denial of the proposed 68-lot Kahoma affordable housing project when it meets Thursday in Honolulu.

The commission is set to meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Airport Conference Center near the Honolulu International Airport to take up an adoption of “findings of fact, conclusions of law and decision and order” for the Kahoma project.

During a Dec. 5 meeting on Maui, project developer West Maui Land Co. received four votes in favor of the project, two short of the six required for a needed land reclassification of 16.7 acres from agricultural to urban.

The project had the support of the Maui County Department of Planning and the state Office of Planning. It was opposed by interveners Lahaina resident Michele Lincoln, who lives near the project site, and Routh Bolomet of Oahu. They argued that the land should remain designated agricultural and stay as an open area.

In 2011, the Maui County Council approved the Kahoma project as a fast-track affordable housing development.

West Maui Land Co. planning consultant Rory Frampton said Friday that the developers had not yet seen the commission’s proposed findings of fact, conclusions and decision, but it was understood that under the LUC’s rules it is required to issue a denial of the project based on the Dec. 5 vote.

Frampton said that the project developers remain “very perplexed” by the commission’s vote and anticipate filing a motion for reconsideration. However, that motion cannot be filed until the commission issues its official denial, he said.

Project plans called for selling the homes to families with incomes up to 160 percent of median income. The development would have been built on vacant land between the Kahoma Stream flood control channel and homes mauka of the former Pioneer Mill.

The commission’s vote last month came with dissenting votes from three members Sheldon Biga of Maui, Ernest Matsumura of the Big Island and Nicholas Teves Jr., an at-large member. Voting in favor of the project were commission Chairman Kyle Chock, an at-large member; Vice Chairman Chad McDonald, an at-large member; Thomas Contrades, Kauai member; and Lance Inouye, an at-large member.

Two commission members were absent, Ronald Heller of Oahu and Jaye Napua Makua, an at-large member.

After the vote, project coordinator Heidi Bigelow expressed disappointment, saying there’s great need for affordable housing in West Maui and that the project developers had already invested $600,000 in paying for environmental studies, fees, attorneys and consultants for planning, traffic engineering, archaeology and a cultural expert.