WAILUKU - The Maui County Council Land Use Committee voted 8-0 Wednesday to recommend approval of Maui Land & Pineapple's West Maui housing project Pulelehua.
Council members hashed out conditions for the project, including updating affordable housing requirements, and warned developers that if they didn't break ground within five years, they would consider exercising their right to revoke the zoning. ML&P Chief Operating Officer Ryan Churchill said that wouldn't be a problem, and that the company hoped to move forward within three to four years.
"The sooner the better," he said. "Our intent is to get design, get permitting and hopefully get this project going."
Leonard K. Nakoa III questioned the need for Maui Land & Pineapple Co.’s proposed Pulelehua housing project during testimony Wednesday before the County Council’s Land Use Committee. He said the developer and others already owe the county affordable housing units for earlier projects. “Why not have them build the houses that they owe already before touching this project?” he asked.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The project entitlements are expected to come before the full council for first reading Oct. 21. Council Member Riki Hokama was excused from Wednesday's meeting.
ML&P is proposing to develop 882 units on 310 acres in Mahinahina. Council members on Wednesday voted to update affordable housing requirements for the project, which was first reviewed by the council before the county adopted its work force housing law.
Under the conditions approved Wednesday, the developers would be required to comply with the housing law and provide 25 percent affordable housing - a number that would increase to 50 percent if market-priced homes end up selling for more than $600,000.
Developers also would have to provide an additional 125 affordable homes to satisfy promises made in connection with the company's Kapalua Mauka project.
Some council members noted that ML&P has pledged that half the homes at Pulelehua would be affordable, and favored setting the affordability requirement at 50 percent. But ultimately the panel decided to require the developer to follow existing work force housing rules.
"Predictability comes by following the established ordinance, not by changing the playing field in this room," Council Member Mike White said.
Council members heard from testifiers Wednesday, including Leonard K. Nakoa III, who noted that ML&P and other developers already owed the county affordable housing units in West Maui for Kapalua Mauka and other projects. He questioned the need for approving Pulelehua.
"Why not have them build the houses that they owe already before touching this project?" he asked. "Just go get 'em done."
Kula resident and former General Plan Advisory Committee member Dick Mayer said Pulelehua should be put on hold until the council completes its review of the Maui Island Plan and sets urban-growth boundaries for West Maui.
"I'm hoping you will turn this down at this stage," he said. "I'm not saying permanently."
Before voting on the project, council members said they had thought deeply about the many issues and concerns that had been raised by the community.
Council Member Elle Cochran said she was disturbed that the project was being proposed on prime agricultural land. But she said she was "comforted" by some of the conditions imposed on the developer and recognized West Maui's need for affordable housing.
"We're doing something right for this community - addressing the needs of the community," she said.
Council Member Don Couch noted that ML&P would now be held to the county's work force housing law, which would require affordable homes to be built at the same time or prior to market-priced homes.
"I think that will help quite a bit to alleviate the issues we've had in prior years," he said.
Council Member Mike Victorino noted that the county has a little-used law allowing council members to revoke zoning for projects that don't move forward in five years, and said he'd be willing to "pull the plug."
"We're going to be watching this very closely," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.