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Board: King can vote on Waikapu housing project

Council member needs to disclose any business ties

Kelly King

WAILUKU — The Maui County Board of Ethics on Wednesday advised council Chairwoman Kelly King that she could vote on Waikapu Country Town matters before the council after disclosing her business ties to one of the project’s landowners.

The panel finalized its written opinion Wednesday after King sought guidence. One of the landowners for the project is a landlord to the King’s family business outside Waikapu.

At the board’s April meeting, at which King appeared, members agreed that King may vote on land-use bills relating to the Waikapu Country Town project or any amendments to the bills, but only after she disclosed her relationship to Waiale 905 Partners, one of the landowners for the town project, said Corporation Counsel Gary Murai.

King’s husband, Robert, is the member/manager for Imua Energy Maui LLC, which is a tenant of Waiale 905 Partners, Murai said at Wednesday’s meeting in the Planning Department Conference Room.

In a letter to the board on March 22, Kelly King said the council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee, of which she is a member, received bills for land-use amendments and change in zoning for the Waikapu Country Town project. The changes are needed for the town project to go forward, she added.

At its March 13 meeting, the council committee deferred a vote on the project.

In her letter, King said Imua Energy’s project is not part of the 496 acres that form the Waikapu Country Town project area. But the land lies within a 900-acre area south of the project proposed for an agricultural conservation easement. The easement is described in a proposed condition of zoning for the project, King wrote.

According to April’s board meeting minutes, King said the easement will not come before the council because the easement is the landowners’ decision.

In an email Wednesday, Murai said that the written advisory said that if the facts of King’s situation changes or if matters regarding other aspects of the Waikapu Country Town project come before the council, King is advised to bring the matter back to the board.

King was on Oahu on Thursday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Waikapu Country Town is a master-planned project and is slated to be located within and around the Maui Tropical Plantation, near land leased for agricultural uses by Imua Energy Maui. The project would include 1,433 residential and 146 ohana units, commercial space, an elementary school and more than 1,000 acres of agricultural land.

It is being developed by Mike Atherton, who owns 2,000 acres of land in the area.

According to the board’s April meeting minutes, King said she has not taken a vote on Waikapu Country Town requests but wanted to ask the board “whether I should take that vote or not.”

In response to questions from the board in April, King said her project will not benefit should the Waikapu Country Town project proceed. The property is separate from the affordable housing component of the project.

“The lease is totally separate from that property. . . . so it will continue whether or not the project is approved,” she said.

King said she has no financial interest in the country town project property. “My only interest in it is wanting to see more affordable housing on Maui, that’s just how I would be voting on the project,” she said.

King also noted that the board’s recommendation on her question will help other council members who may be in similar positions in the future.

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

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