Revived, revised plans for Pu‘unani project

Developers have revived and revised a plan for 208 acres just below Wailuku Heights that proposes approximately 147 residential lots in addition to 450 multifamily units, 25,000 square feet of commercial retail and office space, and a 15-acre park. Plans for the project propose a total 597 units of housing, though that number may change as the developers move through the land use designation process.

The Pu’unani project was first proposed in 2006 as a rural 550-unit subdivision to help alleviate Central Maui’s housing shortage. A draft environmental impact statement filed in 2009 proposed 476 multifamily units as well as single-family residential lots.

Those plans were delayed because planners wanted to wait for the General Plan Advisory Committee to complete its master plan, which it did last year, a project coordinator said. The General Plan dictates where the rural and urban growth boundaries are, and the Pu’unani project was altered to its current form to comply with those plans, as well as input from neighboring community associations.

“It was more dense before, so they (planners) did reduce the density quite a bit because that is what the community wanted,” said project coordinator Blanca Lafolette. “The previous administration asked we do more density, but the (Maui) Island Plan came back, and we listened to the public and they wanted more open space.”

The current project proposes the mixed-use district to be west of the Kehalani master-planned community, on the corner of Honoapiilani Highway and Kuikahi Drive, an area that has been vacant and fallow after years of pineapple and sugar cane cultivation, according to an EIS preparation notice that was published Sunday by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The developers, Towne Development of Hawaii Inc., Endurance Investors LLC and Association of II Wai Hui LP, aimed to preserve the rural feel of the area by dividing the area into half-acre and 1-acre lots, which families may use for small-scale farming, Lafolette said.

Earlier drafts of the Pu’unani project also designated affordable-housing units for seniors and veterans, and while the current proposal will likely have similar provisions, “it is too early to say” for sure, Lafolette said.

“This is the first step in the process since it has changed. It’s still really early,” Lafolette said of the environmental notice. She said the number of housing units, how many would be deemed affordable housing units, how the units would be priced and under what terms they would be sold could all change as project planners continue to move through the land-use designation process and gather feedback from the community.

The developers also have been tasked with developing a new water well adjacent to the county’s existing water storage tank site, as well as improving and extending Old Waikapu Road, formerly used for cane haul operations, to meet Kuikahi Drive to allow for access to the project.

When asked about the 25,000 square feet of commercial space that was not included in previous drafts, Lafolette hesitated to speculate about what sort of businesses could occupy the space, but mentioned possibly “medical facilities that will help serve the senior community.”

The estimated cost of the project also has not yet been determined, Lafolette said.

The subdivision has been designed to “provide a transition from the higher density Kehalani Project District to agricultural lands south of the project area” while still providing much-needed housing to accommodate the island’s growing population, the notice said.

From 2012 to 2016, Maui County will need approximately 3,454 new housing units and approximately 2,090 rental units to accommodate all of its residents, according to a 2011 Hawaii Housing Planning Study cited in the notice.

“A significant number of Maui households live in overcrowded conditions or are doubled-up with other families,” the notice said. “The project will give market participants additional choices in single-family and multifamily living . . . and should lead to more affordable housing for Maui’s residents.”

The current designation for the entire project site is agricultural. The project proposes to reclassify approximately 64 acres along the Kehalani boundary to urban and the remaining 144 acres to rural.

Lafolette said the developers are working on a draft EIS they plan to submit early next year, after which they will seek a district boundary amendment from the state Land Use Commission and a community plan amendment and change in zoning from the Maui County Council.

It will be at least four to five years before any lots go out to sale, Lafolette said.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at