WAILUKU - Alexander & Baldwin says it's optimistic work could soon start on its long-planned residential community for Haliimaile now that the county is considering a proposal to add water capacity for Upcountry Maui.
"This subdivision - as with most of Upcountry - has been subject to difficulty as far as identifying water (sources)," A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun told members of the County Council's Planning Committee on Monday.
Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration last month announced a plan to eliminate the long-standing waiting list over the next two to three years by maximizing the use of surface water in Upcountry to add an additional 2 million gallons a day for the area.
Chun said that the Haliimaile project, which received county zoning approvals in 2005, is on the waiting list. He said the project, which calls for a residential subdivision on 63 acres, has been in a "holding pattern."
"So if we solve that, we might solve this?" Council Member Gladys Baisa, who holds the Upcountry residency seat, asked in reference to the waiting list.
"I think it's a very good chance," Baisa said of the proposed meter solution.
The county's Department of Water Supply has said it will present the council with proposed ordinances to help carry out the action plan, which could include higher water rates for heavy users during drought seasons to encourage conservation.
"So you're saying that if meters come through, then you're ready to move forward on this project?" asked Council Member Don Couch, who chairs the Planning Committee.
"We would love to do that," Chun said.
Couch cited concerns about the project's slow pace.
"I know this body has had some questions on projects that have been around for a long time that haven't gone anywhere," Couch said, noting A&B's previously expressed interest to expand the residential project.
In addition to 170 single-family homes proposed for the 63 acres, the company in July asked the council to include an additional 80 acres adjacent to the project within the "small town" designation for additional development.
"We did ask for an adjacent area . . . so that the infrastructure that's required to service this subdivision can be utilized more economically over a larger number of units," Chun said. "And to date, the General Plan Committee has been good enough to include an additional 80 acres."
Council Chairman Danny Mateo was skeptical of the expanded project's ability to move forward, saying the "long-standing" development has been "moving at a turtle's pace" without the water issue being addressed.
"That brings me to concerns with just coming through, asking for entitlements, and just parking," Mateo said. "Somehow, it has to go beyond just getting the entitlements. It has to be a realistic period of time before something actually happens."
Chun noted that water hasn't been the only issue plaguing the project.
"The downturn in the economy and the marketplace has definitely impacted the timing on a project like this, which is focused on the local housing needs, and the past several years have not been a real vibrant market," Chun said.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.