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Testifiers call for more in-depth study on Wailea condo project

Commission unable to come to decision, recesses meeting

A site plan shows the proposed Wailea Resort SF-S Residential Project, which calls for 57 single-family residential units on 23.1 acres in Wailea. Unable to decide whether to accept the project’s environmental assessment or require developers to do more a more extensive study, the Maui Planning Commission recessed its meeting on Tuesday and will take up decision making at its next meeting on May 11. MUNEKIYO HIRAGA map

Community members are calling for a 57-unit luxury condominium project in Wailea to undergo a longer, more in-depth study, especially with neighboring developments already built or on the horizon.

“Wailea expansion has not been kind to our Hawaiian history,” testifier Daniel Kanahele said during a Maui Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday.

After hearing four hours of testimony from 36 people, the commission struggled to get enough votes either way for the project and instead chose to recess the meeting.

“There is a lot of impact from this project that needs to be cleaned up,” commissioner Kawika Freitas said.

Wailea Resort SF-S Partners LP is proposing the $130 million project on a 23.1-acre vacant parcel adjacent to Kilohana Park and the Wailea Kialoa resort community and mauka of Papali Wailea luxury homes.

A map shows the location of the proposed 57-unit Wailea Resort SF-S Residential Project adjacent to Kilohana Park and the Wailea Kialoa resort community. MUNEKIYO HIRAGA maps

Project documents indicate that 51 units, or 90 percent, are expected to house part-time residents, while the other six units, or 10 percent, are expected to be for full-time residents. The condos would range from 2,600 to 3,300 square feet with additional space for a pool, garage and covered lanai, according to a typical unit floor plan. The single-story condos would sit on just over 10,000 square feet and are projected to sell for about $3.6 million each.

No short-term rentals or ohana units will be allowed, said David Goode, who is with the Ledcor applicant team and is the development manager for Wailea SF-S Partners LP.

Ledcor Development, the Canadian-based group behind the project, has built or proposed multiple luxury developments in the area, including a 75-condo project called La’i Loa that’s already gone on the market and a proposed 289-unit community of homes, duplexes and multifamily units.

On Tuesday, residents expressed concerns over the 57-unit project, saying it wouldn’t benefit the community and needed to be reviewed more carefully.

“All this project is short-term housing for tourists,” testifier Kai Nishiki said. “(This) is not just from me, it’s from our entire community.”

Maui Meadows Neighborhood Association President Debra Greene said more input on the project is needed and advocated for an environmental impact statement — a much more extensive review than the environmental assessment that project developers have already done. She pointed out that the project is one of several similar developments to be built in the area and thought they should be reviewed together instead of piecemeal.

Several testifiers also called for more archaeological studies and asked that the project be referred to the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission.

South Maui resident Tom Cook, however, was supportive of the project, saying that the homes will generate property taxes, which in turn support the county’s coffers and can go toward affordable housing. Amid complaints over the gated development, Cook said that gated communities pay for their own trash pickup and landscaping and maintain their own roadways.

Bruce U’u, field representative for the Maui Chapter of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, said his support is “based on fact” and not by hearsay or personal feelings.

“It’s master-planned, “he said, noting the project has all of the zoning it needs.

He said the project will infuse money into the economy and give jobs to Maui residents, pointing to the state’s highest unemployment rate in the nation.

“This is the type of revenue stream we need for our workers, the working class, blue collar,” he said.

Commissioners struggled to garner the votes in support or in favor of the project. Freitas, who said that the project needed a more “complete” archaeological and cultural survey of the lands, expressed concerns over how much water the project would use and whether it would leave enough for residents, as well as the lack of affordable housing in the area. But Freitas’ motion to have the developers prepare the more extensive environmental impact statement supported by most of the testifiers ultimately failed.

Commissioner P. Denise La Costa said she supported pushing the project forward, as the commission would still be able to review it in the future.

Even if the commission were to issue a “finding of no significant impact” for the environmental assessment, the project would need to return for a special management area use permit and other approvals.

“While a lot of people don’t want to see high-income people move here or buy property here, they do add to our economy,” she said. “The area that is going to be built is zoned for and is in the community plan for that specific type of properties.”

However, La Costa’s motion to issue a finding of no significant impact and accept the final environmental assessment also failed.

The commission will take up decision making on the project at its next meeting on May 11.

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

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