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Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Waikapu subdivision clears a hurdle

Assessment: No significant environmental impact for 135-plus unit project

This map shows the location of the proposed Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residential project, Pu‘unani homestead, on 48 acres in Waikapu. Munekiyo Hiraga map

The 48-acre Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Pu’unani subdivision in Waikapu — with its 135-plus units projected for completion in 2024 — cleared a major hurdle by receiving a finding of no significant environmental impact last month.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission evaluated the final environmental assessment and issued the finding at its October meeting. The environmental assessment was published in the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s “The Environmental Notice,” which was released Sunday.

A total of 161 residential lots, including 137 turn-key single-family homes and 24 vacant lots, are planned for the development on the mauka side of Honoapiilani Highway next to the Waiolani Mauka subdivision. The turn-key homes are currently anticipated to range from about 1,088 square feet to 1,674 square feet in size and feature six model types with three to four bedrooms and two- or three-bath options. The vacant lots will be lessee built.

No ohana or accessory dwelling units will be permitted on any of the 161 lots, the environmental assessment said.

The estimated construction cost is $72.3 million for lot development, infrastructure and the turn-key homes, the report said. Infrastructure improvements will include internal roadways; curbs, gutters and sidewalks; a drainage detention basin; grading; water, sewer and drainage; utility connections; walls and fences; landscaping improvements, as well as roadway frontage work along Honoapiilani Highway.

A total of 161 Hawaiian Homes residential lots are planned for these 48 acres in Waikapu next to the Waiolani Mauka subdivision. This photo was taken Wednesday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The proposed subdivision will have two entrances from Honoapiilani Highway. The main entrance will line up with Kokololio Street in Waikapu Gardens makai of Honoapiilani Highway. The other entrance, on the Wailuku side of the project, will be right-turn in and right-turn out only, the report said.

Thirty-four monkeypod trees along Honoapiilani Highway will need to be removed and replaced with new trees within the shoulder of the right-of-way, the report said. The 34 monkeypod trees were designated as “exceptional trees” by the county in December 2018 but were delisted in August by the County Council.

The environmental assessment notes that monkeypod trees are not the state Department of Transportation’s preferred tree along roadways because of roots undermining pavement, curbs and gutters. The DHHL will be working with county and state officials on removal and “a suitable replacement tree option,” the report said.

Upon project competition, the residential lots will be offered to Waiohuli Undivided Interest lessees in their original selection order based on a 2019 Hawaiian Home Lands Commission decision allowing the relocation of these leases. Any remaining lots will be offered to those on the Maui Island Residential Waiting List.

The Waiohuli list consists of 272 beneficiaries; the Maui waiting list stands at 3,819, the report said.

In June 2019, DHHL acquired the parcel in Waikapu for the subdivision from Dowling Co. in exchange for affordable housing tax credits with no money changing hands, DHHL officials said. Dowling also will build the subdivision and front the money for the housing project.

Most of the land is designated or zoned agriculture by the state, county and the community plan. A portion of the site is designated for single family homes in the community plan, the report said.

However, the DHHL has the authority to use its lands at its discretion based on the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and the state Constitution, the report said. Because DHHL owns the Waikapu site, it has the right to “proceed with project without the lands being fully entitled for residential use” and “intends to exempt the project from certain County Code and rule requirements.”

The development implements the recommendation of DHHL’s 2004 Maui Island Plan to acquire land in Central Maui for residential homesteads, a news release about the environmental assessment on Monday said.

“It is noted that although the proposed subdivision by DHHL is being referred to as the ‘Pu’unani Homestead Subdivision,’ the DHHL recognizes the importance of place names,” the report said. “As such, the DHHL will be working with the residents of the subdivision, once occupied, to select a place-appropriate name for the development that honors its location in Waikapu.”

The final environmental assessment can be found at https://dhhl.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Final-EA-Puunani-Homestead-Subdivision-Maui.pdf

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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