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Fast-tracked Makila Kai gets mixed reviews at public meeting

Workforce housing needed but not more traffic on crowded highway

WAILUKU — Testifiers expressed mixed views of the proposed 49-unit Makila Kai project in Launiupoko on Wednesday, with supporters saying the project’s workforce housing is needed while critics worried about more traffic on busy West Maui roads, among other concerns.

Nearly 30 people spoke before the Maui County Council’s Land Use Committee. The panel began its review of the project’s fast-track application to develop 25 residential workforce housing units on half-acre lots and 24 market-rate agricultural lots on 1.5 acres to nearly 2 acres.

The project is seeking approval via the state’s 201H fast-track housing provisions that exempt affordable housing developments from certain land use and other governmental regulations.

Committee members took no action, choosing to defer the matter until May 31.

The project is being developed by Greg Brown of Makila Kai LLC. He already has built 80 homes in the Launiupoko area. Makila Kai would take up nearly 80 acres mauka of Honoapiilani Highway and the Lahaina bypass corridor.

The workforce housing would be for individuals and families with annual incomes from 80 to 140 percent of Maui’s median income, or $59,280 to $103,740. Around half of the project’s area would feature a “green-belt” of open space, a park and setback areas, plans show.

Makila Kai’s land is part of a larger previous proposal called Makila Rural Community. Plans for that development aimed to develop single-family affordable units and rural residential lots on 271 acres. Developers pulled the plug on that development last year, eventually selling the lots — some of which were sold to Brown.

Brown said he has built and sold lots in Launiupoko for millions of dollars, but he wanted to do something different with this project. One of the developer’s representatives, Tom Schnell of PBR Hawaii & Associates, said that Brown would gift workforce housing buyers $50,000.

Workforce housing would be built before or at the same time as market-priced lots, which would have owners build their own homes.

Drinking water would be provided by Launiupoko Water Co., a private company, and Launiupoko Irrigation, another private company, would provide nonpotable water, Schnell said.

Marybeth Frieday, who brought her 6-month-old child with her as she testified, urged council members to support the project to bring needed workforce housing to West Maui.

“If this and other workforce housing don’t go through, I have to leave the island,” said the special education teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary.

Frieday said that she rents in Launiupoko but she soon will need to move because the home is being sold.

“We will both be homeless,” she said, noting that rents are so high she can’t afford to live on Maui.

She said she has watched as many friends have left the island because they have nowhere to live. She added that she was speaking for many teachers and others who couldn’t attend the meeting because they were at work.

“We need to know if we have to stay here or we have to leave because we have nowhere to live,” she said.

Junya Nakoa also advocated for the project, saying he knew Brown and would hold him “to his word” on developing the workforce housing component.

“This is like one blueprint project for other developers,” said Nakoa, who told council members he was speaking on behalf of others in the crowd who came with him.

Nakoa added that providing a half-acre lot would be a good start for a homeowners.

“This is the one, private and county making it work for all of us guys here. If work, make plenty like this,” he said.

But Launiupoko resident Vera Sredanovic said that she was worried about the agricultural lands in the area being impacted and “taken away from future generations.”

She added that she isn’t opposed to affordable housing, but the planned project is not near any public services.

“It’s not the right place for it,” she said.

Yolanda Dizon said she isn’t against affordable housing, but said that it should be done right. She has concerns about water and safety issues.

“Summer is coming. We are going to have fires,” she said. “One exit in, one exit out (at) Kai Hele Ku (Street). How do you evacuate?”

She said that the location is not the right place for affordable homes.

“Stop this project or defer it until you can look it over and make the right decision,” she said.

Council members had similar questions about water and traffic issues. Council members and testifiers also were concerned that the development is just one of possibly others in the area. They worried about the projects’ collective impacts.

The council has a 45-day window, or until June 22, to make a decision on the project.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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