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Families can live on the land in Olowalu and protect the ‘aina

Viewpoint

We have an opportunity to help 59 families live in Olowalu where I have a home. The council’s Affordable Housing Committee will likely decide today to approve the 59-unit Lihau’ula Workforce Housing Project or not. In a perfect world, we could be have the homes built in a year to 18 months. I am writing to help explain why I believe that creating more housing is so important to our Maui citizens. An owner occupant home on a quarter acre lot gives permanence to a family. This is so important for our community and young families. There is absolutely no good reason for our local families to be forced to leave Maui because of expensive housing or high rents.

The Lihau’ula Workforce Housing Project is being processed under the 201H affordable housing process. It is also called “fast track” by opponents to housing for local families. Well, IT IS NOT FAST!

My partners and I have owned the land since the late ’90s and I bought the 28-acre parcel from the partnership in 2018. I had a very difficult time finding investors because of the development risks and low profitability. Not one of the original partners would invest with me in this workforce housing endeavor. After all, it is much easier to build the two dwellings that are currently allowed than to withstand the opposition to workforce homes. Nonetheless, I am committed to the development of workforce homes, and fortunately, I convinced some of my colleagues to invest with me.

Let’s get down to the basics.

The project is located in Olowalu, mauka of Honoapi’ilani Highway. There will be 40 affordable homes built and 19 vacant lots — 10 lots 10,000 square feet in area and nine one-acre lots. The 40 homes will be sold to owner occupants under the 201H guidelines for workforce housing. The lots will be sold to owner occupants. There will be no vacation rentals allowed nor any type of rentals. I will do everything in my power to ensure that all of the 59 units will be sold to long-time, local West Maui residents.

A county public hearing on the project via Blue Jeans was held on Wednesday, Sept. 23. The primary objections focused on reef health, miscellaneous attacks on me personally and other existing Olowalu owners, and other items which are governed by state and county laws that we are committed to adhering. We have strived to propose a project that is respectful of the environment, in conformance with all health and safety regulations, and that would appeal to a wide variety of residents.

After the meeting, I heard from a friend born here in Hawaii that the project had no chance getting approved because our Maui County Council is too ignorant. I responded that it is my intention to demonstrate to the council that the development of affordable housing is a difficult undertaking and we have put our best foot forward in the furtherance of housing for our local people.

Well, I have faith in our system and our team and that our council will take the time to do their job and get to the truth.

I love learning and educating and in large part, the absence of affordable housing is due to a confluence of factors, including: government bureaucracy, economics, future uncertainty, and public opposition. We all want our community to be the best. God made Maui a beautiful magical place and I believe that, despite the uncertainty in this world with COVID-19 and other issues, it is my duty to continue to pursue affordable housing in the face of stiff opposition. God also told us in the 9th Commandment, “Thou Shall not Bear False Witness.”

I believe that all of the council members and the mayor believe we have an obligation to protect the environment. I believe that our families can live on the land in Olowalu while protecting the ‘aina. I look forward to helping the County Council learn the truth. My wife, Maggie, and I are residents of Olowalu and we want more neighbors.

* Peter Martin is president of Lihau’ula LLC.

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