Hale Makua is hoping to build skilled nursing, rehab facilities

Project not yet proposed, but county seeking zoning changes to prepare for expansion on park acreage

A Kahului Community Center field adjacent to Hale Makua is empty Wednesday. The senior services nonprofit is hoping to build a skilled nursing and outpatient rehabilitation center in the area, but no project has been proposed yet. A request to change the zoning of the park is headed to the Maui County Council for review. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Hale Makua is hoping to build a new skilled nursing and outpatient rehabilitation facility in the old gateball field next-door to its Kahului facility.

The project has not yet been proposed, but the county is already taking steps to prepare for the expansion.

On Tuesday, the Maui Planning Commission recommended land use and zoning changes for the Kahului Community Center Park to allow Hale Makua to eventually build additional facilities and create a master plan for the park. The request now heads to the Maui County Council for approval.

“There are no specific development proposals associated with this land use request,” Hale Makua board member Mike Munekiyo told the commission Tuesday. “If approved . . . the land use designation will allow Hale Makua and the county to proceed with phased development and master planning of the park.”

Hale Makua, which provides programs such as adult day care, home health, long-term care and rehab, hopes to use a portion of the park for other health care services for the frail and elderly.

In June 2018, Hale Makua Health Services CEO Wesley Lo describes plans for a Kahului Community Center field adjacent to Hale Makua. The Maui County Council passed a resolution in October 2018 that would allow Hale Makua to lease a portion of the park for future expansion. No project has been proposed yet.

CEO Wesley Lo explained that when the board adopted a strategic plan back in 2016, one of the main goals was to make sure the bed count for the skilled nursing facilities would meet the needs of the community. They started looking at the current Wailuku and Kahului facilities.

“I’m not sure if any of you have been to those facilities, but I will tell you that they are old,” Lo said. “As we started doing the assessment, we realized that for us to expand or reprogram it would be extremely cost prohibitive.”

Hale Makua met with then-Mayor Alan Arakawa to see if he would allow the nonprofit to expand into the Kahului Community Center Park, specifically the old gateball field. Arakawa suggested potentially leasing the entire 34-acre park to Hale Makua.

In October 2018, the Maui County Council passed a resolution that would allow Hale Makua to lease 7.4 acres of the park for future facilities — Phase 1 would include a skilled nursing/outpatient rehabilitation center on 2.8 acres, while Phase 2 would include additional kupuna health and social services facilities on 4.6 acres. Both are located in a corner of the park next to the Kokua Pool and Hale Makua and bordered by Uhu and Kaulana streets; they do not include the adjacent soccer fields.

Hale Makua would be able to lease the rest of the park once they and the county develop a master plan.

Lo said Hale Makua would be completing a health impact assessment this week that would be “a precursor to any master plan.” It seeks community input on what people would like to see to improve health in the area — housing, healthy eating, family activities, transportation, etc. — before any projects or policies are put into place.

Any future projects would also have to undergo environmental studies, Munekiyo said. According to county documents, an environmental assessment for the skilled nursing and rehab facility is expected to be published later this year.

Munekiyo said that the idea is to develop in phases to allow time for recreational activities to be moved to other venues. Lo said the park attracts frisbee players and youth sports practices. He said the county is looking to provide other options “either at the community center or other parks in the area.”

Hale Makua spokeswoman Ashley Takitani Leahey said Wednesday that no final timelines have been set for the two phases.

County Planning Director Michele McLean, who initiated the request on behalf of Hale Makua, called it “a very rare and wonderful case of proactive planning.”

“We don’t often get the chance to do that,” she said. “Often we’re reacting to applications that come in.”

No community members signed up to testify on the issue Tuesday. The commission voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the request to amend the Wailuku-Kahului Community Plan land use designation from park to public/quasi-public and to change the zoning from residential district to public/quasi-public district.

The department also initiated another request on behalf of Hale Mahaolu to update zoning from residential to apartment district for its senior housing projects Hale Mahaolu Elua and Akahi. The change would “establish land use and zoning consistency,” McLean explained. No development or change in use is being proposed.

Hale Mahaolu Akahi is a 111-unit project that was built in 1970 on 8.9 acres in Kahului, said Munekiyo, who gave a presentation on behalf of the nonprofit. Hale Mahaolu Elua has 180 units on 12.4 acres in Kahului and was built in 1980.

“We did have some building permit requests come in for these sites and we realized that the zoning was out of whack with the use,” McLean explained. “We found a way to approve those building permits at the time, but that could be problematic for them down the road if they want to do substantial renovations.”

The commission voted 6-0 to recommend the zoning changes; the request will also move on to the council for final approval.

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


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