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Napili home under fire from council

Owner offers to cut size if vacation rental approved

An aerial photo shows a Napili home under construction this year. Residents have voiced concern over the large home and its permitting process. The Maui County Council’s Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee discussed the matter at its meeting Tuesday. Maui County photos

After residents alleged that a monster vacation rental is disguised as a single-family home to skirt permitting rules and public scrutiny, Maui County Council and Planning Department officials on Tuesday vowed to research “all options” for what can be done with the Napili property.

“I’m hoping you will defer this matter because we need to explore all options and one is condemnation,” said council Chairwoman Alice Lee during the Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee meeting Tuesday. “That property is probably a nice location for affordable housing.”

Meanwhile, the owner said in a letter to the committee that he would be willing to reduce the height of the home if it will “soften” the community’s stance on vacation rentals. 

Owned by Greg Brown, a 45-foot-tall Napili home with eight bedrooms, an elevator, a roof pool and spa, two dens, two media rooms and two parking areas each with four spaces, is currently being constructed on his property at the corner of Lower Honoapiilani Road and Hui Drive.

Community members for months have raised flags over the height and potential use for the home, and public testifiers Tuesday called the home a “monstrosity.”

Community members for months have raised flags over height and potential use for this home at the corner of Lower Honoapiilani Road and Hui Drive in Napili.

However, Brown through his attorney, Jeffrey Ueoka, contends that the structure complies with all state laws and county ordinances, and the special management area permit exemption in 2019 and building permit in 2020 were thoroughly vetted and properly approved by the county Planning Department, according to the June 25 letter to the committee.

The property falls under the Napili Bay Civic Improvement District zoning, which restricts buildings to two stories in height.

Due to outdated county code that doesn’t specify the amount of feet in a story, Planning Director Michele McLean said the department may not have a basis to require a lower height. The home’s roof is about 35 feet high and the two stairwells and elevator shaft go to about 45 feet, she said.

One way to remedy future issues is to amend the county code to change “two stories” to “30 feet,” McLean said. She added that the amendment for the Napili Bay Civic Improvement District zoning is slated for July 13 at the Maui Planning Commission.

Brown in the letter said he would be willing to reduce the height of the home if the community is more receptive to it being used as a vacation rental, which is allowed under the district’s zoning and common in the area. Brown said that he intended all along to use the dwelling as a vacation rental when it wasn’t in use by family.

“Greg is willing to redesign the home, minimizing the protrusions above 35 feet, to see-through type railings, the elevator shaft, and minimal rooftop utility/support structures, provided he is granted assurances that the home will be allowed to be utilized as a vacation rental as allowed by the current zoning,” the letter said. 

“Our hope is that Greg’s willingness to reduce the height of the home to address the community’s concerns will soften the community’s stance regarding the vacation rental issue,” the letter added.

McLean, however, said during the meeting that the applicant received an SMA exemption under the premise that the dwelling would be used as a single-family residential home — not as a vacation rental.

“In the first paragraph that his idea was that the home would be utilized as a vacation rental, that is in direct conflict with what they told our staff when we were processing the SMA assessment,” McLean said when responding to committee Chairman Mike Molina’s question over whether any part of Brown’s letter was concerning. “Our staff specifically asked that question and was told ‘no.’ “

She said that the department considers vacation rental use “to not be allowed in this structure.”

McLean said that the next steps are to consider the SMA exemption criteria, which includes the consideration of impacts, and to check whether the building permit is complying with the zoning height limit of “two stories.” Also, staff will verify square footage and check height/finished grade to determine if the plans were accurate and if construction is following plans. The department is looking at whether a makai retaining wall is permitted, she added.

The council, which is mulling two bills that would halt building permits for transient accommodations as a way to curb overcrowding and mitigate the effects of tourism, discussed the Napili property as part of the committee agenda Tuesday. No action was taken and the item was deferred so the subject matter can be revisited.

The property is on the market for $12.85 million. It was purchased in 2017 by the current owner for $1.2 million, according to McLean. Real Property Assessment Division has the land value listed as $1.275 million.

“What everyone is trying to figure out is: The damage has been done to the community. How do we rectify this situation legally?” council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez said during the meeting.

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

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