Councilors hear testimony for, against project
Faced with a tight deadline, Maui County Council members wrestled well into Wednesday evening with a number of issues arising from the proposed 203-home Kahoma Village fast-track affordable housing project in Lahaina.
Members of the council’s Land Use Committee heard more than an hour of public testimony, with neighbors opposing the development because they said it would increase traffic, congest intersections, strain wastewater capacity, contribute to drainage and runoff problems and add more students to overcrowded schools.
Proponents said that the project would make available much-needed affordable housing in West Maui, allow hotel employees to move closer to their jobs and provide jobs for the island’s construction industry.
Because the development is seeking fast-track county approval, the council has until Feb. 13 to take action. The committee meeting, chaired by committee Vice Chairman Don Guzman, began meeting at 1:30 p.m., took a 45-minute dinner break and was continuing deliberations, discussing possible project conditions until about 8:45 p.m.
Guzman recessed the meeting, which will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The project is seeking exemptions from a number of development standards, subject to council approval. If approved, the development would need to get a special management area permit from the Maui Planning Commission. Conditions also may be placed on the project through the SMA review process.
The development is planned for 21.6 acres in Lahaina makai of Honoapiilani Highway and bordered by Front Street, the Kahoma-Kai Stream Bridge, Kenui Street and Honoapiilani Highway. The land is owned by the Weinberg Foundation, which has hired developer Stanford Carr as its representative during the project’s government review process.
Carr, who has developed a number of his own projects on Maui, including the Kehalani subdivision and Wailuku Parkside, came under fire from a couple of testifiers who complained that promises made in conjunction with his projects were not kept.
Donna Ting, a Maui Realtor for 40 years, said that she owns a home in one of Carr’s subdivisions but for more than a decade its roads have not been dedicated to the county.
As a result, “until this day if somebody has an accident in our subdivision, every homeowner in that subdivision is responsible (for liability) because those roads aren’t county roads,” she said. “I can’t understand after 13 years why those roads have not been dedicated. It’s ridiculous.”
Wailuku resident Roy Vandoorn, a resident in a Carr development, had the same complaint.
“There are numerous neighborhoods on Maui where the roads have not been dedicated to the county even though the homes were sold as far back as the year 2000,” he said. “Stanford Carr has been involved in a number of these developments. As far as I’m concerned, until the roads and other infrastructure have been dedicated to the county no one should consider that these projects be complete.”
Vandoorn suggested that Carr not be allowed to seek exemptions for the Kahoma project until infrastructure for his other projects is completed.
In response, Carr addressed the chronic problem of Eha Street, a private road in Wailuku not accepted by the county for decades.
Eha Street was built by C. Brewer in the 1990s, conforming to standards in place at that time, he said. The road was developed as a condition for construction of Iao Parkside, a project by C. Brewer, D.R. Horton and Schuler Homes. Carr bought C. Brewer Homes in 1999.
Then, in 2001, Carr developed 116 homes at nearby Wailuku Parkside, but the roads there could not be dedicated to the county because they connect with Eha Street, which had not been accepted by the county, he said.
Later, Eha Street no longer met current county standards, and it would have cost millions, in fact more than the street originally cost to construct, to bring it into compliance with new roadway standards, Carr said.
He said he’s been “chastised” and “trashed” for the road when “I’m not at fault,” he said. Nevertheless, homeowners “believe it’s all my fault.”
Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa called the situation a “Mexican standoff” that needs to be resolved.
Last year, the council passed a measure to allow the county to accept a roadway, even if it doesn’t satisfy all county standards, if such an action were found to be in the public interest by the County Council.
Other testifiers focused on the Kahoma project proposal.
Lahaina resident John Miller said that the project is in an area with insufficient infrastructure.
“Lahaina is a great place to live, but we don’t have the infrastructure; we don’t have the facilities for this kind of project,” he said.
Lahaina wastewater facilities are overtaxed and smell, he said. “If there’s one fatal flaw, that stuff is going to spill.”
A number of residents of Puunoa Place and its side streets, who live makai of the project near the ocean, complained that the location of the Kahoma project’s vehicle entrance and exit would be directly across from their exit onto Front Street.
Placing Kahoma’s primary ingress-egress directly across from Puunoa Place “puts an undue burden on myself and all my neighbors,” resident Connie Sutherland said. “We are a small neighborhood of 30 homes, and the proposed project is to have over 200 homes. The traffic flow from Kahoma Village will make it difficult if not impossible to turn north out of Puunoa Place. Please have the developer rework his traffic pattern so as not to create potential fatal auto or pedestrian accidents for all of us in the neighborhood.”
Sutherland asked council members not to fast-track the Kahoma development.
“If that is not possible, please put conditions on the developer that must occur before any or all portions of the project move forward,” she said.
William Greig, a representative of Hawaii Operating Engineers Local 3 with 200 members on Maui, asked council members to support the project.
“We are looking and hoping to get more work to come out, and also having opportunities for our members’ families as well as my family to have opportunities to afford affordable housing,” he said, noting that three generations of relatives of his wife’s family live under one roof on Maui.
Now, they’ve saved enough to afford a home, he said, but they have “nowhere to purchase.”
A number of neighbors complained that they were not notified about the project until it came before the council.
In response, Carr said that the Weinberg Foundation has spent three years and $1.8 million in studies to prepare the fast-track housing project application for the Kahoma project.
Presentations were made as early as 2011 to a number of West Maui groups, including Kaanapali 2020 and West Maui Taxpayers Association, he said.
Plans for the Kahoma project calls for a little more than half of the project homes to be built as multifamily units, meeting the county’s affordable housing criteria, with the remaining 101 units proposed as single-family, market-rate units. The project includes three private parks with a total area of 1.75 acres.
Carr said that he would agree to building affordable homes at the same time as market-priced units, but he could not consent to building all the affordable homes first because that would not allow sales of the market-priced units to subsidize the affordable ones.
Construction is expected to take two years and cost $60 million.
The Kahoma Village project is separate from an earlier council-approved project called the Kahoma Residential Subdivision. That 68-home project mauka of Honoapiilani Highway was approved as a fast-track development by the council in December 2011.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.