Traffic, entry point are issues with Kihei project

WAILUKU – Increased traffic and having only one entry-exit point appear to be major sticking points for Maui County Council members reviewing A&B Properties’ proposed 600-unit housing project in north Kihei.

Community members and some council members voiced concern over the project’s only main thoroughfare, which would be through Kaiwahine Street. That street already serves as a major access road to a subdivision. Both the proposed project and the current neighborhood would share Kaiwahine to get to and from Piilani Highway, which would increase traffic at an already congested intersection, residents maintain.

Council Member Don Couch, who holds the South Maui residency seat, shared residents’ concerns about traffic problems. He asked testifiers at a meeting Wednesday if having an intersection that is “not as safe as could be” outweighed the need for affordable housing.

He got a mixed reaction with some testifiers. Some said they trusted reports and analysis by experts that deem the area safe enough. Others said they didn’t see a traffic issue, and others expressed a need for another access road besides Kaiwahine.

On Wednesday, the council’s Land Use Committee deferred action on A&B’s request for a community plan amendment from agriculture to multifamily, single-family and commercial designation. The developer also is seeking a change in zoning from agriculture to apartment, residential and community business districts.

The next committee meeting on the matter is tentatively set for March 19.

The $220 million project calls for building a range of housing from single-family homes to multifamily flats or townhouses. The project would cover about 94.3 acres mauka of Piilani Highway between Kaiwahine Street and Mokulele Highway.

Conceptual plans include a 1.4-acre commercial center, which A&B’s representatives said may include a convenience store or small shops and a 7-acre park with a neighborhood recreation center.

A&B officials have said that the company aims to have the first houses available for sale by 2018. Units would range from $300,000 to $600,000 in present-day market conditions and be targeted for sale to working families.

When asked about the project’s single access point after the meeting, A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun said that the project as designed currently has only one way in and out for motorists, but, in the future, a road could be developed mauka of the project as another way in and out for subdivision residents.

To mitigate traffic, A&B’s conceptual plan proposes a widening of the intersection at Kaiwahine Street and Piilani Highway; adding a new double left-turn lane out of Kaiwahine heading south on Piilani; a new left-turn lane from Piilani onto Kaiwahine; and a new dedicated left-turn lane on Uwapo Road turning onto Piilani. The developer would also build a new eastbound left-turn lane on Kaiwahine entering into the project.

Committee Vice Chairman Don Guzman, who chaired the meeting, noted that the state is not allowing any new right-hand turns in or out of Kaiwahine. A map of the project only shows one right-hand turn in and one out of Kaiwahine Street to Piilani Highway.

The state Department of Transportation is recommending seven project conditions, which include having the “mitigative transportation improvements” at the intersection of Piilani and Kaiwahine and Uwapo Road completed prior to home occupancy.

The department also wants a redone transportation impact study for the development when it reaches the threshold of 70 percent occupancy.

In responding to Guzman’s request to evaluate the DOT’s recommendations, county Public Works Director David Goode said that he believed the condition to have all the road improvements done before one house is built may be too “onerous.”

He added that some conditions were redundant with requirements already in place by the state and he saw no problem with another traffic study being done.

But, like the testifiers, a Fire Department official and some council members, Goode said that he, too, would like to see another exit or entrance on the mauka side of the development.

“It’s better for all (county) departments. . . . It’s better for all people, too,” he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at