WAILUKU - The Maui County Council approved the proposed 203-home Kahoma Village fast-track affordable housing project on Friday, despite some ongoing concerns about increased traffic and the effect the project could have on West Maui residents.
Council Member Elle Cochran, who holds the West Maui residency seat, voted in favor of the project, although she had her own list of concerns.
Those issues include neighborhood traffic and on Honoapiilani Highway, questions about the affordability of the homes, drainage issues, overcrowding at area schools and less park space in the development than was originally planned.
Council Member Don Couch also voted in support of the project, despite lingering traffic issues.
Some of those have been addressed recently by development representative Stanford Carr, he said. Carr has agreed to either install a speed table, a raised crosswalk or a large blinking light to calm traffic in the vicinity of the Front Street-Puunoa Place intersection.
The development will be built on 21.6 acres in Lahaina makai of Honoapiilani Highway and bordered by Front Street, the Kahoma-Kai Stream Bridge, Kenui Street and Honoapiilani Highway. The land is owned by the Weinberg Foundation.
All seven members of the council present at the full council meeting Friday voted to approve the project. Council Vice Chairman Robert Carroll and Council Member Mike Victorino were both absent and excused.
The council had until next Thursday to act on the matter. Otherwise, the project would have been deemed approved as submitted under the Hawaii Revised Statues Chapter 201H. That state law requires the council to make a decision on the proposed project within 45 days of receipt of the application.
The law provides developers with exemptions from certain standards for qualified affordable housing projects, subject to council approval.
In their review last month, council Land Use Committee members tacked on various conditions aimed at getting 102 affordable homes built in the development within eight years or sooner if the Maui Planning Commission were to act quickly on the project's required special management area permit.
During the commission's review of that permit application, there will be another opportunity for public input and more time to work out unresolved issues.
Construction is expected to take two years and cost $60 million.
According to Planning Department officials, the completed project will have two types of market homes - 69 "cluster" units of three to five units sharing a main driveway, and 32 units with driveways coming off a single alleyway.
The affordable homes will be in multifamily complexes.
Neighbors opposed the project's plans to have its primary entry-exit driveway opposite of Puunoa Place, which is their access onto Front Street.
On Friday morning, project proponents said affordable housing is direly needed on the west side as even former Lahaina-born-and-raised residents who work in Lahaina cannot find homes in West Maui.
Longtime Lahaina resident and retired Maui County Deputy Police Chief Lanny Tihada testified in favor of the project, saying: "The young people of Maui need this, especially in Lahaina."
Tihada said that while it only takes him three minutes to drive to his job on the west side, he was reminded of the long and "expensive" commute others have to make as he drove to the Kalana O Maui building to testify Friday.
May Fujiwara of the Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club said she supports to development that can help families. She added that she knows of a Lahaina-born-and-raised firefighter who works in Lahaina but cannot live in the town as there is no housing available.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.