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Proposed agreement with Waikapu project earns committee’s support

Full council must now vote on public-private partnership between county, developer

A rendering shows what a residential neighborhood might look like in the future Waikapu Country Town project. On Wednesday, a Maui County Council committee recommended a proposed public-private partnership that would allow the development to connect to the county’s wastewater system in exchange for providing more housing. Rendering courtesy Waikapu Country Town

A Maui County Council committee on Wednesday threw its support behind a proposed public-private partnership between the county and developers of Waikapu Country Town that would add more affordable housing in exchange for the developer’s required contribution toward a wastewater treatment plant and other traffic improvements.

The council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee voted unanimously, 9-0, to recommend approval of a resolution regarding the agreement. The resolution will now head to the full council for a vote.

Waikapu Country Town, a planned development of nearly 1,500 homes, is offering to add up to 213 workforce housing units — while removing the same number of market-rate units — under the proposed public-private partnership announced by the county administration in February. In exchange, the county would let the project hook up to its wastewater treatment system in Kahului in hopes of helping it kickstart construction.

At the committee’s meeting last week, developer Mike Atherton described the partnership as “win-win-win” for the county, the project and the community — saving Waikapu Country Town on wastewater costs, providing space for both an elementary and intermediate school and offering up to 500 total workforce units.

“I’m glad to see this moving forward the way it is,” Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura said Wednesday, adding that “I think this is a huge step forward.”

Testifiers during the meeting last week expressed support for the partnership, saying that government and developers needed to work together to provide more housing. They also hoped the agreement wouldn’t delay the long-awaited project any further.

Mayor Michael Victorino has said that he and Maui’s state legislators have been working on getting the state’s help in funding a portion of infrastructure improvements.

Committee Chairwoman Tamara Paltin and other committee members expressed interest in addressing the length of affordability for the homes and possibly extending it.

Waikapu Country Town will include 1,433 single-family, multifamily and rural units, with the potential for 146 ohana units; 200,000 square feet of commercial space; 82 acres of parks and open space; 8 miles of sidewalks, paths and trails; 12 acres for a new elementary school; and 910 acres of agricultural preserve land.

Under the partnership, Waikapu Country Town would temporarily connect to the county’s wastewater treatment plant in Kahului for 100,000 gallons per day, which would allow construction of 150 workforce and 150 market-rate units, a project representative said during the meeting last week.

Once the county builds its new Central Maui Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is expected to be completed in 2028, the project would commit to more workforce units.

Project representatives said last week that if “everything went well,” the backbone infrastructure could begin the latter part of this year. Water, sewer, roads and other work are expected to take about a year or two, then construction of homes could begin.

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

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