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Makena project may need broader environmental study

Plan proposes 53 luxury home lots near South Maui’s Makena coastline

David and Karen Spirk of Spring Hill, Tenn., head for Maluaka Beach after parking in the beach access lot off Makena-Keone‘o‘io Road on Wednesday morning. The couple said they have been coming to Maui for 33 years and the small grassy park overlooking Maluaka Beach was their favorite place to go to watch whales and relax. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

WAILUKU — The Maui Planning Commission is mulling whether a project for 53 luxury home lots near Makena’s coastline needs a more extensive environmental study than developers have recently submitted.

Proposed by Wailuku-based H2R LLC, the $17-million project would develop 53 condominium lots, beach parking and related infrastructure on about 28 acres in Makena, which was slated for a 500-room hotel under previous owners.

The lots, ranging in size from 7,500 to 23,000 square feet, would be sold at market price, likely upward of $1 million each. Owners would then build single-family homes.

A 50-stall beach parking lot near Maluaka Beach will be relocated about 150 feet north, closer to beach access, and have a 6-foot rock wall, according to project officials. The new beach parking lot will be built before the existing one is demolished to minimize impacts to users and the surrounding community.

The project’s draft environmental assessment, which was triggered by proposed upgrades to nearby county roadways, was discussed by the commission Tuesday. Public testimony was also taken, and six testifiers voiced concerns over the plan, while one offered support.

The Maluaka Beach access parking lot is scheduled to be moved northward as part of a proposed, 53-lot luxury home lot project between Makena Alanui and Makena-Keone‘o‘io roads.

“The area known as Makena, it has more traditional names, has always been a special place for locals and visitors because of its quiet, natural beauty and historical interest,” said Daniel Kanahele, a county Cultural Resources Commission member who wants the area’s cultural resources protected. “Whenever there is development in the area, it generates a lot of interest.”

Sam Garcia, Makena Homeowners Association president, said no one in the association is opposed to the project.

“We are glad it’s not a hotel,” he said.

Ashford DeLima, who said he’s from the area, was worried about housing for existing residents amid Maui’s housing shortage.

“Is it affordable for the local people?” he asked. “That’s my concern.”

Some commissioners during the meeting said they want the project to do an environmental impact statement, which would involve a more comprehensive look at reasonable alternatives, cumulative impacts of the proposal and existing or possible future developments in the project area, among other facets.

Commissioner P. Denise La Costa pointed to an archaeological inventory study compiled more than a decade ago and said the project “needs to be an EIS instead of an EA because so many things have changed.”

However, H2R project representative Leilani Pulmano said the plan follows state rules that determine the type of environmental study required based on “significant criteria assessments.”

“We feel the EA has presented all of the technical studies and shows that there is no significant adverse impacts, according to the rules,” she said.

Corporation Counsel advised the commission to schedule a decision on whether an EIS would be required for a future agenda. Or, the commission could allow the EA process to continue, and when the final EA is submitted, the commission could reject it with the recommendation that an EIS be done.

Commissioner Keaka Rob-inson encouraged the panel to be diligent with what’s in front of them now and said there are pros and cons to both types of studies.

“If we do our due diligence, we make sure community input is heard, sometimes we can get quicker results . . . because we can ask them to change things now instead of having a three- to five-year plan,” he said. “If there is damage being done, we want to stop it now.”

La Costa, along with commissioner Kawika Freitas, also questioned the workforce housing components.

“I want to know more about workforce housing,” Freitas said. “How is this $1 million a lot going to benefit local residents?”

“Whether this is my purview or not, I don’t want credits bought — I want actual housing built,” La Costa added.

Workforce housing rules will be met, according to project officials.

H2R’s 53 lots require 14 affordable housing units. The previous developer had partnered with Hale Maha’olu Ehiku Senior Rental Project in Kihei and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to provide 11 affordable housing units. H2R LLC will provide the remaining three units, Pulmano said.

The parcel is bounded by Makena Alanui Road to the east and south, Makena-Keone’o’io Road to the west and Makena South Golf Course hole number 17 and the Makena Golf and Beach Club site to the north. It is designated urban by the state Land Use Commission and zoned “H-M, Hotel” by the Kihei-Makena Community Plan and the county’s zoning rules.

Under previous landowners, it had approval for a 500-room hotel, H2R said.

“It’s much better than a 500-room hotel,” said commissioner Dale Thompson.

Roadway, electrical and power pole relocation improvements along Makena Alanui and Makena-Keone’o’io roads, both of which are public and county-owned, are included in the proposal. Work for each road includes a new curb, gutter, sidewalk and shared bike lanes, along with moving power poles and other modifications.

The project must also receive a special management area permit, which will trigger the need for 60 beach parking lot stalls instead of the 50 existing ones, commissioners said.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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