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Developer Greg Brown proposes workforce ag lots in revamped Launiupoko project

Makila Farms would offer 34 units

The proposed 76-acre Makila Farms development in Launiupoko would include 19 workforce homes on lots of 2 acres or slightly larger, and 15 market-rate agricultural lots of 2 acres or slightly larger. Makila Farms is a revamped version of developer Greg Brown’s Makila Kai project, which came to a halt in a Maui County Council committee in 2017. -- Makila Farms photo

Developer Greg Brown is returning to the county with a revamped version of his Makila Kai project that a Maui County Council committee brought to a halt two years ago.

Brown is now proposing Makila Farms, a fast-track development of 19 workforce homes on lots of “2 acres or slightly larger,” as well as 15 market-priced agricultural lots of “2 acres or slightly larger.” The project would be located on 76 acres in Launiupoko between the Lahaina bypass and Haniu Street.

A public information meeting on the project will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the fellowship room of Lahaina United Methodist Church at 988 Front St. At the meeting, Makila Farms representatives will provide an overview of the project and answer questions from the public.

“It’s a project that’s really been vetted in the community for three years, and we feel like we’ve solved a lot of the concerns, and we’re hoping we have a chance,” Brown said Friday.

Makila Farms would be located on the same property as Brown’s Makila Kai project, a proposed development of 25 residential workforce housing units on half-acre lots and 24 market-rate agricultural lots on 1.5 to 2 acres.

In June 2017, the council gave Makila Kai a green light in a 6-2 vote. But the project also was seeking a district boundary amendment from agriculture to rural for the 15 acres that included the workforce housing. In November 2017, the council’s Land Use Committee voted 7-0 against a measure that would have allowed the boundary amendment, effectively bringing the project to a halt.

Members cited concerns from residents about impacts to the nearby ocean and reef from septic systems initially proposed for the development, questions about adequate water supply and impacts on Native Hawaiian families nearby. They encouraged Brown to return with another proposal after addressing the community’s concerns.

Brown said Friday that because people were opposed to the boundary amendment, “we changed the project and made it 100 percent ag.” That required increasing the lot sizes and decreasing the number of homes, which is why Makila Farms has fewer units than its predecessor.

And, instead of being available to residents earning 80 to 140 percent of area median income as Makila Kai was, Makila Farms’ workforce homes will be offered to those earning 50 to 100 percent of area median income, or $41,900 to $83,800 annually.

Makila Farms would include deed restrictions making the homes affordable for at least 30 years, the same proposal as for Makila Kai, Brown said. He added that he would build “whatever size home the workforce buyer can afford.” Home prices would range from $161,700 (a one-bedroom for those earning $41,900) to $531,185 (a four-bedroom for those earning $83,800).

“These homes we’re building are all designed to be added on to,” Brown said. “A young person starting a family, if all they can afford is a one-bedroom home, they could get a one-bedroom home and add on to it in the future.”

Brown said that water was also an issue the first time around for Makila Kai, and that he’s obtained a permit to drill an irrigation well so that the Makila Farms project would not have to use “any stream water, period.” Each of the properties also would have an aerobic treatment unit, also known as an ATU, a wastewater system that uses an oxygenated process to get rid of organic matter.

As for concerns about fire, Brown said that the property would be surrounded on three sides by paved roads (the bypass, Haniu Street and Punakea Street), which would act essentially as firebreaks and provide access in and out during an emergency.

If the land isn’t developed into workforce housing, Brown said it would likely turn into gentlemen estates. When asked about the fact that developers have used this argument in the past as leverage for their housing projects, Brown responded that “it’s not my intention to hold a carrot over their head,” but that the reality is it’s much easier to get a permit to build a luxury home than for a workforce project.

“I’m a luxury home developer, and everyone knows that,” said Brown, who lives on Hawaii island and works both there and on Maui. “In the later years of my career, I’m really trying to convert my business into a workforce housing developer, and I’ve spent a lot of money on both islands trying to do this. But the reality is, I can get a permit in 90 days to build a luxury home on one of these lots, so if I can’t build workforce homes, of course I have to build . . . something on it.”

Brown has submitted his application to the county, but the 45-day fast-track clock doesn’t start until the Department of Housing and Human Concerns transmits the application to the council.

“We understand that he is currently continuing his efforts at community engagement and may make some changes to his proposed project based on the feedback he receives,” housing director Lori Tsuhako said Friday. “We anticipate that the DHHC will transmit his application to the County Council on or about Aug. 27, and that his project may be heard at the council’s Affordable Housing Committee meeting of Sept. 4, if schedules don’t change between now and then.”

Council Member Tamara Paltin, who holds the West Maui residency seat, could not be reached for comment on the project Friday afternoon.

Brown’s project is coming up not long after the council voted down a pair of Peter Martin projects in Launiupoko — Polanui Gardens and Makila Rural-East, which had proposed a combined 96 workforce units and 61 market-rate units on parcels adjacent to Makila Farms.

Martin said earlier this week that he has no plans to sell the land and is looking to design 50 workforce homes on 15 acres where Polanui Gardens was proposed. He also wanted to try and fast track the project, though added that this could still take years.

Testifiers have voiced concerns about both Martin’s and Brown’s projects because they used to be part of a 271-acre development known as Makila Rural Community that proposed 150 rural residential lots. Makila Land Co. pulled the plug on the project in 2016 and sold the lots, including some to Brown.

For more information on Brown’s latest project, visit makilafarms.com.

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