WAILUKU - The Maui County Council Land Use Committee voted 5-2 Wednesday evening to recommend conditional approval of the proposed Kaiwahine Village in Kihei, an affordable housing project seeking fast-track approval.
Council Members Elle Cochran and Joe Pontanilla cast "no" votes after an afternoon site inspection followed by a three-hour meeting in Council Chambers. Both said there were too many unanswered questions and concerns about the project.
"In clear conscience, I cannot support this project," Cochran said with her voice shaking.
Maui County Council Member Bob Carroll (foreground center), chairman of the Land Use Committee, leads a site inspection Wednesday afternoon of the Kaiwahine Village affordable housing project. Committee members later recommended approval of the fast-track housing project, with conditions.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Those supporting the project were Land Use Chairman Bob Carroll and Council Members Gladys Baisa, Mike Victorino, Mike White and Don Couch.
Couch, who holds the council's South Maui residency seat, was able to get three amendments attached to a resolution approving the project.
Developer Royal Main Properties LLC proposes to build Kaiwahine Village as a 120-unit multifamily subdivision with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units in 15 buildings, off-street parking and other improvements on 9.3 acres off Hale Kai Street in Kihei.
Prices for the units are estimated at $180,000 for one bedroom, $225,000 for two-bedroom units and $250,000 for three bedrooms.
Pontanilla said he wasn't so sure the homes would be affordable to low-income families. He estimated the mortgage prices for a one-bedroom would run at approximately $1,600 a month, plus maintenance fees of $300 a month.
Kaiwahine developer John Sindoni revealed in Wednesday's hearing that he has had ongoing discussions with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands about the possibility of the agencies purchasing the units and then renting them out or providing a rent-to-own option for Native Hawaiians.
Sindoni said he's also approached the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal housing officials about providing financial assistance to qualifying families.
"No one's ever done 100 percent affordable," he said. "I'm trying to do my part and help the island I love."
Residents in the surrounding neighborhood opposed the project, arguing it would only cause more traffic congestion. Meanwhile, the Hawaii Carpenters Union testified in favor of the project because of the jobs it would create for the construction industry.
The committee's recommendation for approval included the following conditions:
* That Royal Main Properties install driver feedback signs on Kaiwahine and Hale Kai streets. Driver feedback signs tell motorists how fast they're going as they approach.
* That the developer provide a turnaround area for county firetrucks. Couch suggested this based on comments made about Kaiwahine by Maui Fire Department officials.
* That the developer set maximum value of each of the 120 housing credits as follows: $54,000 for one-bedroom units; $67,000 for two-bedroom units and $75,000 for three-bedroom units. Housing credits have traditionally been provided under the county's residential work-force housing ordinance and not a fast-track affordable housing application. Pontanilla cited the housing credits provision as one of the reasons he opposed the project.
* That construction of the project would begin within five years and be completed within 10 years. If the developer needs a time extension, it must be filed at least 90 days before the designated construction date to be considered.
* That, if some units become market priced, the developer pay the state Department of Education the appropriate impact fees for each market unit sold and that the money go to public schools in the Kihei area.
Royal Main has agreed to sell its homes to individuals and families who qualify for affordable housing projects for up to a year after the units have been constructed.
The recommended resolution is expected to be reviewed by the entire council at its March 18 meeting.
Kaiwahine Village is seeking approval through the state's fast-track approval process, which allows affordable housing developments exemptions from certain land-use and other government requirements.
A decision on a fast-track housing application needs to be made within 45 days of its filing with the council, or by March 21 for the Kaiwahine project.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com.