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Stormy weather stalls affordable housing project

The proposed 80-unit project would include 68 single-family detached units, 12 duplexes and a park. Council members had questions about emergency access, bus routes and sidewalks but were generally supportive of the project Wednesday.

WAILUKU — A Maui County Council committee is considering fast-tracking a workforce housing project that would bring 80 affordable housing units to Waikapu.

Waikapu Development Venture is proposing to develop 68 single-family detached units, 12 duplex units and a neighborhood park on about 12.5 acres of land just down the road from Longs Drugs. The project came before the council’s Land Use Committee, one of the only county bodies operating Wednesday with Hurricane Lane approaching.

With uncertain weather conditions and more documents for the committee to review, Committee Vice Chairman Riki Hokama recessed the meeting until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Some council members were already in favor of the project.

“This is what we need,” said Council Member Alika Atay, who holds the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency seat. “I look at the plan, and I think, this is a good project, and I would like to have it move forward and support it.”

The project would occupy roughly half of a 25.3-acre parcel owned by Emmanuel Lutheran Church, which has agreed to sell the 12.5 acres to Waikapu Development Venture once the land has been subdivided. Emmanuel Lutheran plans to build its new church and school campus next door.

An 80-unit affordable workforce housing project is being proposed in Waikapu just down the road from Longs Drugs, Foodland and other businesses. Waikapu Venture Development is asking the County Council’s Land Use Committee to fast track the project.

Waikapu Development Venture is proposing three-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family homes ranging in size from about 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, while the duplex units would be two-bedroom, one-bathroom units ranging from 700 to 900 square feet. Lot sizes for the units would range from about 3,200 to 6,500 square feet, and each lot would include its own parking.

The project would be 100 percent affordable to qualified residents earning 70 to 140 percent of Maui’s median income, with half of the units priced to families earning 101 to 120 percent of the median income. Project manager Bill Frampton said the project would be privately funded.

Two people testified on the project Wednesday. Zandra Amaral Crouse expressed support, saying that “the resident workforce is leaving the county in search of affordable housing, and new employees are being deterred by high cost of living.”

“We need to work closely with those willing to do business on Maui and build affordable housing,” she said.

However, testifier Amy Halas was worried about potential burial sites.

“Affordable housing is sorely needed, yet I’m concerned that the exemptions granted to this project and that the fast-track nature might in turn imperil in situ burials and perhaps other culturally sensitive resources that might indeed be in this parcel of land,” she said.

Frampton later responded that an archaeological inventory study had been done and that “we absolutely agree with monitoring.”

“This is an area we know that’s got iwi kupuna,” said Frampton, who served on the Maui Lanai Island Burial Council for eight years. “Any project that came into that area . . . I don’t understand how you could not do monitoring.”

The project would be bordered by Waiale Road to the east, Honoapiilani Highway to the west, Valley Isle Fellowship Church and the 70-unit Waiale Elua Subdivision to the south and an undeveloped lot to the north, which has been proposed as the site of a 324-unit workforce rental apartment project. Other housing nearby includes the 467-unit affordable Waikapu Gardens Subdivision. As Waikapu grows, Atay wondered whether another bus stop could be placed in the area or if the county bus routes could change.

“We are also looking at how to . . . maybe relieve some of the Wailuku route, because especially when school is in session, we do have some issues with timing on the Waikapu route,” said John Buck, deputy director of the county Transportation Department.

Frampton said that if another bus stop were needed in the area, Waikapu Development Venture could possibly chip in with other housing projects in the area to fund it.

Maui Fire Department Capt. Paul Haake also addressed concerns about emergency access. Two of the roadways within the proposed housing project are 20 feet wide, which is the minimum needed for emergency vehicles to access the area.

“However, that means that there’s no parking on those roads,” Haake said. “If they’re able to enforce the no parking, then there should be no issue with the widths of the road.”

Frampton said the homeowners’ association could work with police on enforcement.

Overall, the project generated positive responses.

“We are in support of this project,” said Will Spence, director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns. “I think it’s in a very good location. It shows a lot of creativity in the design and the use of land. I think we’re going to see more product types like this in the future.”

Council Member Stacy Crivello, who chairs the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee, said she “certainly would like to see such a project pass through.”

“I’d like to see us go forward with this,” she said. “We talk a good talk about the crisis that we’re in now with affordable homes. Let’s see if we can really make this talk for real.”

Because it’s a fast-track project, the council has 45 days to make a decision from the time the project was submitted from the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, which was July 25.

Hurricane Lane also disrupted the council’s schedule for the rest of the week. Today’s committee meetings were canceled, while Friday’s council meeting has been moved to 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, council Chairman Mike White said.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.