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Housing project in Wailuku canceled

Delay in island plan cited by developer’s representative as reason for demise

The developer of a proposed project below Wailuku Heights that called for 147 residential lots, 450 multifamily units, a park and commercial area has nixed the project, according to a filing with the state Land Use Commission.

The Pu’unani project on 208 acres in Wailuku was being developed by Towne Development of Hawaii, Endurance Investors and the Association of II Wai Hui. In addition to the housing units, the project included 25,000 square feet of commercial/retail space and a 15-acre park that also would serve as a stormwater retention basin.

The project at the corner of Honoapiilani Highway and Kuikahi Drive would have involved improving the Old Waikapu Road and Honoapiilani Highway to provide access to Pu’unani and developing a new water well adjacent to the county’s existing water storage tank.

The delays in development of the project, largely focused on waiting for the completion of the Maui Island Plan, were one of the key reasons for the nixing of the project, said the developer’s representative, Charles Jencks, last week.

“Delay is not your friend,” he said.

The project was first proposed in 2006 as a rural 550-unit subdivision to help alleviate Central Maui’s housing shortage. A draft environmental impact statement filed in 2009 proposed 476 multifamily units as well as single-family residential lots.

The plans were put on hold until the General Plan Advisory Committee completed its Maui Island Plan in 2012. The plan dictates where the rural and growth boundaries are, and the Pu’unani project was altered to comply with the plans and to include input from neighbors, developer officials said.

The draft EIS was withdrawn in 2013 and an EIS preparation notice was filed later that year. The revised plan included the 147 residential lots and 450 multifamily units with the commercial and park space. To preserve the rural feel, the lots were going be divided into half-acre and 1-acre lots, which families could use for small-scale farming, the developers said.

Pu’unani included market and affordable housing, including for seniors and veterans, Jencks said.

The project needed state land use district boundary and county community plan amendments and a county change in zoning, the filings with the state Land Use Commission said. All of the land is currently agriculture and the plan was to reclassify 64 acres to urban and 144 acres to rural.

In a letter to Scott Glenn, OEQC director, dated Jan. 30, state Land Use Commission Executive Officer Daniel Orodenker said that the developers “are no longer pursuing the project at this time” and have withdrawn the petition for a district boundary amendment before the Land Use Commission.

The withdrawal was published in OEQC’s “The Environmental Notice” on March 8.

Jencks confirmed that the project is dead. He was not aware of any plans at the moment for the site.

In addition to the delays caused by the Maui Island Plan issue, other impediments included a lack of certainty over water availability; the cost of off- and on-site infrastructure; and the residual land value after completion of all the entitlement and infrastructure work, driving land values for the site “out of reality,” he explained.

When asked if the nixing of the project is a blow to getting more housing inventory for Maui, Jencks replied: “You bet it is.”

Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns Director Carol Reimann agreed.

“The cancellation of the Pu’unani project in Wailuku is especially unfortunate as housing is a top priority for Maui, and it would have delivered much-needed workforce housing for our local residents,” she said last week. “It has been in the works since 2005 and much work has been done to try to bring the project to fruition.

“Unfortunately, due to a number of factors including infrastructure issues, the project didn’t pencil out for the developer.”

The county is “very disappointed” that Pu’unani is dead, said Reimann. But she noted that there are other projects in the pipe.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.