WAILUKU - A Maui County Council committee Tuesday reversed itself and decided to add 390 acres near the Makena Resort's golf course to future growth boundaries for South Maui.
The same proposal last week stalled under a tie vote with only six council members in attendance. At that meeting, Council Members Elle Cochran, Don Couch and Mike Victorino voted against the request.
With all nine members present Tuesday, the proposal gained enough support to pass. Cochran and Couch again voted no, along with Council Member Riki Hokama, but the six others voted in favor.
The move was part of the General Plan Committee's ongoing review of proposed growth areas within the Maui Island Plan.
The Makena Resort already holds state- and county-level approvals to develop on most of the property's 1,800 acres. Developer Stanford Carr of ATC Makena Holdings, which owns the resort, called the council's action "prudent."
He stressed that the resort has not determined what will be designed or built on the land.
"Our intent is to keep it very rural and rustic in nature, very low density," Carr said. "We've spent the last year and a half commissioning archaeological survey work, biological studies on flora and fauna, water quality monitoring - preliminary work so we can start to eventually conceptualize and plan."
Council Member Joseph Pontanilla revived last week's motion to add 390 acres around the resort's golf course into a growth area, which was recommended by Planning Director Will Spence.
"Looking at the process that this developer needs to go through . . . I feel comfortable in the sense that this area can be protected," Pontanilla said.
The Maui General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), Maui Planning Commission and former planning directors previously have rejected this request.
"That's my concern," said Council Member Don Couch, who represents South Maui. "This has gone through the GPAC, the planning commission, the planning director from last term, and this planning director is the only one offering to put that back in. . . . It's adding to the count, the unit count, throughout the whole Kihei-Makena region and could take away from more affordable and more accessible stuff up in north Kihei."
Dick Mayer, vice chairman of the General Plan Advisory Committee, echoed some of Couch's concerns. He also noted that Piilani Highway cannot handle increased traffic in Makena.
"The Makena Resort project already has entitlements for 2,700 units. I felt it was unwarranted, at this time, for the council to add to those numbers," Mayer said after the meeting. "Another major problem is the traffic on Piilani Highway. It will not sustain this kind of development at the end of the cul-de-sac, and with other developments going on down there, the highway is inadequate."
Carr said ATC Makena Holdings has "never made a representation of the number of units that will be built." He, too, shared concerns about the highway.
"Master plans take decades, and one of the things I brought up in testimony before the council is that that side of the island will need a secondary ingress or egress to get in and out of that area," Carr said. "But that will never be built unless we can amortize those roadways with housing and other real estate. Bringing some of those points across hopefully made the council realize this is a prudent step."
Spence addressed some of Couch's concerns, saying the developer would still need additional approvals to move ahead with development of the property.
"When they come in for zoning - which is actually more rigorous than the special management area process - it'll go to the planning commission, who will recommend certain conditions to the council," Spence said. "There would be other safeguards on archaeological resources. The council has the authority to do conditional zoning, but there'd be considerable archaeological work done way before it gets to council."
Carr said any future development would be vetted with input from the public.
"I was born and raised in Maui, so the Wailea-Makena area is very dear to me," he said. "I'm very grateful to the council members who supported our position on this, and I know I have their vote of confidence and trust, and that's why I'll do the right thing."
The council's General Plan Committee will meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Council Chambers. The discussion will move to proposed growth areas for Upcountry Maui, including Makawao, Pukalani and Kula. Public testimony will be heard.
* Proposed Kihei-Makena growth plan, www.co.maui.hi.us/archives/201/120517a.pdf.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.