Affordable housing project moves forward

WAILUKU – Without its proposed commercial component, the now 56-unit Waikapu Gardens Phase II affordable housing project moved ahead Thursday as the Maui Council Council’s Land Use Committee recommended approval of the project to the full council.

After meeting with the Waikapu Community Association on Monday, developer JES Corp. pulled the plug on a proposed small commercial center in its project, noting “very strong objections” from those at the meeting, according to an email to the committee from Doug Spencer of JES Corp. on Thursday. By removing the commercial component, developers added eight more homes to the 100 percent affordable housing project. It originally proposed 48 homes.

JES Corp. is seeking council approval under the state’s “fast-track” 201H approval process for affordable housing. The expedited process allows the project to be built without changing its agriculture zoning, without normally required amenities such as curbs and sidewalks and with the waiver of various fees.

The full council has 45 days, or until Oct. 10, to take action on the project.

Committee members applauded the affordable housing project but said they still had some concerns over the exemptions granted as well as other issues.

“I can’t recall a 100 percent (affordable housing) project of this nature. It’s a rarity,” said Council Member Riki Hokama.

But Hokama’s concerns include the ability for the project to remain affordable.

According to Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffrey Ueoka, the homes will remain in the affordable price range to an agreed time with the county, even if the home is resold.

The details of the affordable time period will be worked out with the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, he added.

Council Member Mike Victorino also touted the 100 percent affordability and noted that the developers listened to the community’s concerns.

Victorino acknowledged that with the process comes exemptions, but noted that other affordable housing projects have also received exemptions as well and maybe are not as close to construction as JES Corp.

The corporation’s principal is longtime developer Jesse Spencer. JES Corp. developed the neighboring 411-unit affordable housing subdivision Waikapu Gardens.

“I guarantee you tomorrow, Jesse will be out there moving some dirt,” Victorino said Thursday.

Committee Chairman Bob Carroll said after the meeting that the project will help the working-class citizens of Maui and in turn will help both the very rich and even the poor because the working-class serves everyone.

“They are what Maui’s all about. . . . Everyone benefits,” Carroll said of the project and its potential buyers.

The committee voted 7-0 to advance the project, with two council members, Elle Cochran and Stacy Crivello, excused.

The project is proposed on 10.5 acres mauka of the intersection of East Waiko and Waiale roads. Under the proposal, 48 house-lot packages would be priced for three income groups from 80 to 140 percent of Maui’s median income.

The newly added eight units are proposed to be sold to buyers earning between 121 to 140 percent of median income.

Lot sizes will begin at 5,000 square feet with three-bedroom, two-bath models and four-bedroom, three-bath models. The homes will range from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet.

The committee also required that construction begin within two years of council approval, and construction must be completed five years after it commences. Developers also may seek a time extension, if needed.

Without the commercial component, vehicular traffic in and out of the project will be limited to Waiale Road, plans show.

The committee placed some conditions on three lots near an area cemetery. The panel called for requiring a larger setback for one of the lots and a height limit of one story only for two lots to protect a view plain.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at