Unanimous: Makena Resort moves forward
Planning Commission votes 6-0 to approve SMA permit after developers trim project scope to settle lawsuit
WAILUKU — With a lawsuit against the project settled, the Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved a special management area use permit Tuesday for the $354.5 million mixed-use Makena Resort.
Commissioners and residents praised ATC Makena Holdings and Discovery Land Co. for adjusting their plans in response to community concerns.
“The public testimony and the support from the neighbors and the locals was fabulous,” said Ed Divita, partner with Discovery Land Co. “It was overwhelming. . . . Now we feel a great obligation to deliver a fabulous new project for Makena that everybody will be able to enjoy.”
Originally proposing 158 units on 47 acres, developers cut the project to 134 units, which will include 67 multifamily units, 18 single-family cottages, 26 single-family custom lots, nine transient vacation rentals and 14 condominiums. The project also allows for 27,300 square feet of commercial space.
Cuts included three multifamily buildings, two canoe cottages and one vacation rental unit. Custom lots also were moved more mauka to increase the space between housing and Makena Landing. Beach parking was increased to 19 stalls on Honoiki Street and 10 stalls on Makena-Keoneoio Road, the maximum possible for the area.
“The modified site plan is our best plan,” Divita said. “It has fewer units, more open space. It’s especially sensitive to historical sites and enhances the existing views along Makena Alanui (Road).”
The new plan emerged from talks the developer held with the community and a lawsuit filed by three groups. On May 2, Ho’oponopono O Makena, the Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow Foundation filed suit in environmental court, challenging the planning commission’s “finding of no significant impact” for the project’s environmental assessment.
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza halted permit proceedings and asked the two sides to negotiate. On Friday, they reached a settlement. The agreement “will result in at least 60 units of housing, affordable in perpetuity and priced at or below median income levels,” built on Makena resort land, Sierra Club Maui Group coordinator Adriane Raff Corwin said in a news release.
“We have asked that first priority for these homes be given to families with historical ties to the Makena area, giving kamaaina a chance to return to the land,” Raff Corwin said.
The housing would be located mauka of the resort, said Albert Perez, executive director of Maui Tomorrow. While it won’t come right away, ATC Makena has to build the units — and provide the infrastructure — before developing on land it owns above the golf course.
As part of the many provisions of the agreement, ATC Makena will expand Makena Landing Park by about an acre and build an off-site parking lot with free shuttle service to Makena State Park, Perez said. The developer also will reopen the historic Makena-Ulupalakua trail and Aupuni Road for hiking and hire a cultural manager to oversee access.
The settlement also calls for the creation of a community benefit fund for things like trail building and cultural restoration on the 47 acres. ATC Makena will contribute $363,000 to start the fund, then add $125 per housing unit per year, including units built on future projects.
And, even if ATC Makena sells the land in the future, the provisions will stay in place.
“We’d rather they didn’t develop it, but this is a compromise on all sides, and we appreciate their willingness to reach, I would say, a fair settlement,” Perez said. He added that he hoped the agreement would show that the county has “a lot more power to ask for more for the community than they have been.”
Now, Divita said developers will focus on detailed design plans, then apply for building permits and start construction, which is slated to begin by May 2020.
Leahi Hall of Discovery Land Co. said the project will generate about 160 jobs during the five-year construction period. After construction, resort operations will require another 145 jobs. Hall said the resort also plans to contribute $465,000 to the state Department of Education for schools and $2.3 million to the county Parks and Recreation Department.
Longtime Makena residents who testified Tuesday all spoke in support of the project. Laurie Chang said developers made many changes based on community suggestions.
“It’s been wonderful working with a developer that listens and gets to know you,” Chang said.
The attention to the community won over commissioners. Keaka Robinson said that since developers applied for an SMA use permit in November 2015, they “have been nothing but professional.”
“I’m glad you guys stuck with it and you were able to work with the Sierra Club and Maui Tomorrow,” Robinson continued. “A lot of people refuse to do that. . . . The things you guys said two years ago about wanting to be part of the community, I noticed that. I was one of the opponents of this. . . . I’m very happy you guys have been doing the right thing.”
Divita said the team was prepared for the long haul.
“When we committed to the community-based process up front, we knew it would involve give and take and a meeting of the minds, and that that would be time consuming,” he said. “But that also results in a better project in the end for everybody.”
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.