MAALAEA - Planning is moving ahead for developer Jesse Spencer's 1,100-unit Ohana Kai Village affordable housing project.
Spencer's project plans are shown in his submission of a draft environmental impact statement last week to the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. It published the draft in the Wednesday issue of The Environmental Notice.
The development is being proposed on 257 acres at Maalaea, with 60 percent (660 units) planned as affordable for families earning from below-moderate to above-moderate income, or 81 to 140 percent of median. Prices would be set by the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns' affordable sales price guidelines. The remaining 40 percent of homes (440 units) would be sold in accordance with market demand for those earning from 141 to 160 percent of median income.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Motorists traveling on Honoapiilani Highway pass empty land near Maalaea Harbor on Sunday morning. Jesse Spencer’s Ohana Kai project would occupy part of the sloping land to the right in this picture.
Other project amenities would include a neighborhood-oriented village town center, parks, open space and areas for public/quasi-public use (like schools or churches). Infrastructure plans include an on-site wastewater treatment plant, drainage and an off-site private water system. The water system would consist of three groundwater wells (already drilled) and two storage tanks.
Spencer wants approval of the project under the state's "fast-track" affordable housing development provisions. According to his draft environmental statement, the developer "will be seeking exemptions from certain regulatory and statutory requirements relating to land use, construction, subdivision, public services, and infrastructure and administrative procedures."
"Approval of these exemptions will address impact fee requirements for the project and will enable the units to be constructed and made available to qualified buyers in accordance with the project schedule," the draft EIS says.
State law allows developers of affordable housing projects to be exempted from "all statutes, ordinances, charter provisions and rules of any government agency relating to planning, zoning, construction standards, development and improvement of land, and the construction of units thereon."
The project also will submit a petition to the state Land Use Commission for fast-track processing of a state district boundary amendment from agricultural to urban.
More than a year ago, Spencer completed development of the 411-home Waikapu Gardens subdivision. Then, in October 2008, he purchased 257 acres zoned for agriculture and used for cattle grazing from Maalaea Properties. The former landowner had planned to develop a project called Maalaea Mauka on land designated as Project District 12 in the Kihei Makena Community Plan.
The draft EIS says the developer would be seeking exemptions from the county's general and community plans, but Spencer is participating in the county's General Plan update process.
Spencer has submitted a formal request to the county Department of Planning to ask that the project property continue as a future urban-growth area for Maalaea. Development plans also have been discussed with the General Plan Advisory Committee and the Maui Planning Commission during those panels' reviews of the General Plan update.
The Maalaea Mauka project district has been in the community plan since 1998, although Planning Director Jeff Hunt has told the General Plan Advisory Committee he wants it removed in the next version of the county's land use ordinances.
Hunt said earlier this year that he did not know any details of Spencer's changes in the original project design but that his advice was based on concerns about Maalaea Mauka's location, impact on infrastructure and a desire to maintain a green, open space belt between Maalaea and Waikapu.
Nearly a year ago, Maalaea Community Association President Lynn Britton wrote a Viewpoint published in The Maui News opposing Spencer's project. She called it "a perfect example of urban sprawl" and said residents would still have to drive to places such as Wailuku and Kihei for work, shopping, worship and even school.
Britton also said that the proposed development would add thousands of cars at the gateway to West Maui and that the potential for major road closures is unavoidable.
Spencer has said the project would begin when all government permits and approvals are granted. He maintains he could begin construction within four months and keep 150 people working for approximately eight years on the project. The development's total cost has been estimated at $400 million, including both site work and other construction costs.
The property is north of Maalaea Harbor and between Honoapiilani Highway and state conservation lands in the West Maui Mountains. The northernmost edge of the property is between Honoapiilani Highway's intersections with North Kihei Road and Kuihelani Highway.
The 45-day public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement ends Feb. 6.
Comments should be sent to: Jo-Ann Ridao, deputy director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, 2200 Main St., Suite 546, Wailuku 96793; and project manager Mark Alexander Roy, Munekiyo & Hiraga Inc., 305 High St., Suite 104, Wailuku 96793.
To see the project's draft environmental impact statement, go online to oeqc.doh.hawaii. gov/Shared%20Documents/Environmental_Notice/current_issue.pdf.