WAILUKU - The Maui County Planning Commission unanimously passed on Tuesday the Kahoma Village fast-track affordable housing project, which supporters said will add much-needed affordable housing to the west side.
"I believe this is a very worthy project . . . to develop affordable housing," Commissioner Wayne Hedani said during the commission's meeting Tuesday. "With the county's policy on workplace housing being so stringent, virtually nothing has been built within the last five years, the last 10 years in West Maui."
"There is a severe need for affordable housing," Commissioner Jason Medeiros said. "We not only have a homeless problem, we have a hidden homeless problem (in which) blue-collar working families have to move in with their parents, sometimes two or three generations living in one house."
The $60 million development will provide a total of 203 housing units - 102 of which will be multifamily affordable housing units - on 21.6 acres in Lahaina, bordered by Front Street, the Kahoma-Kai Stream Bridge, Kenui Street and Honoapiilani Highway. The area is currently zoned for apartment buildings and could accommodate up to 350 units, a project consultant said. The project also includes three park areas totaling 1.75 acres.
Stanford Carr, a Maui native, is developing the project on behalf of property owner, the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. A state law allows affordable housing projects that meet certain criteria to be "fast-tracked," or to bypass a number of zoning and other requirements that could take years to obtain and complete, pending County Council approval. The Kahoma Village Project was first introduced in 2012 and was approved by the council in February.
The commission voted 6-0 Tuesday to grant Carr a special management use permit. Commissioner Sandra Duvauchelle recused herself from the vote.
More than 20 Lahaina residents crowded into the standing-room-only meeting early Tuesday morning to testify against the proposal, saying the development will further burden infrastructure and resources that are already tapped out.
"I'm not against affordable housing. I think it's wonderful, but not in that location," said Lahaina shop owner Drake Thomas. "My shop is directly across the street from the proposed project. The traffic is unbelievable. When you add 203 more homes, you're gonna have a traffic nightmare."
In addition to traffic congestion, Lahaina homeowners raised concerns about the increased burden on the existing sewage and drainage systems, limited emergency access in case of an emergency, pedestrian safety issues and overcrowding at the two west side elementary schools.
Many testifiers advocated that the space be turned into a public community park instead of a housing development.
"I support affordable housing on the west side, coming from a family of seven children all raised (in Lahaina)," resident Naomi Akiona Guth said Tuesday. "But the proposed (project) will situate the last open space in all of Front Street."
Guth and other members of the Protect and Preserve Kahoma Ahupuaa Association earlier this month filed a petition to intervene in the project. After hearing representatives from both the association and Stanford Carr Development, commissioners voted Tuesday to deny the homeowner association's petition.
"The average house in Lahaina is going to run you seven or eight hundred thousand dollars," Medeiros said. "This will give hardworking families the break they deserve. They're busting their butt working every single day, and you (try to) deny them a roof because it (the housing development) is in your backyard. No. I don't get to choose my neighbors, and they (petitioners) don't get to choose theirs. Living next to working families is, in my opinion, a good thing."
Commissioner Hedani said the petitioners, existing Lahaina residents, are already contributing to the issues they raised against the development.
"For the most part, I've heard, 'I'm not against affordable housing but not in my backyard,' '' Hedani said. "But a lot of (these) people talking about the impact, they themselves contribute to the impact every time they flush the toilet. They're just as guilty as anybody (would be) in this subdivision of polluting the waters of West Maui.
"If I had my preference, I'd like to see 300 apartments built. That's the level of demand and need for housing in West Maui," he said.
Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club President May Fujiwara supported the housing project, saying it would help young people own their own homes.
"Our seniors who have children and grandchildren living with us will be forever thankful to you for getting them out of our homes so we can have peace and quiet in our golden years," she told commissioners with a laugh.
Project consultants said they have made efforts to mitigate any impact the development would have. Multiple traffic studies were conducted on behalf of the developer and found that the project is not expected to have any significant impacts on existing traffic conditions. During morning peak hours, studies found that about 27 cars would be entering and 94 exiting the housing project. During afternoon peak hours, about 100 cars would be entering and 56 exiting.
The increase in cars in the area would not cause intersection wait times to increase, the developer said, and the close proximity of the housing development may even decrease the amount of traffic in the urban area by encouraging the use of alternative forms of transportation, such as walking, biking and public transit.
Consultants also said that according to state Department of Education calculations, adding 203 units would add only 31 elementary school students. Additionally, the developer will pay an educational impact fee of $750,000 to the department.
Carr said after the meeting that he was "elated" with the commission's decision, and that he expects to start construction this fall. Construction is expected to take two years.
In other action Tuesday, the commission approved a proposal to renovate Whalers Village. The project includes improvements to the common area, internal access entry ways and driveways and the addition of 15,400 square feet of gross leasable area for shops and restaurants. Hedani recused himself from the vote.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.