The Maui Planning Commission has approved a special management area permit and a shoreline setback variance for a project to demolish an existing seawall and replace it with a new one about 10 feet mauka at the Kahana Sunset condominium in West Maui.
The commission also recommended that the Maui County Council change the 79-unit Napili condominium's community plan designation from multifamily to hotel and change its zoning from residential to hotel.
Located at Keonenui Bay between Alaeloa and Haukoe points, the condominium complex was built in 1971, based on a land-use variance granted in 1968, according to commission documents.
The proposed rezoning and community plan amendment ran into opposition from neighbors, who submitted written objections to the county Department of Planning.
Paul Giragosian, owner of a unit at the Napili Villas, wrote that he was concerned that the change of zoning to hotel would result in the demolition of the Kahana condominiums and lead to the building of a high-rise hotel. That would obstruct the views of neighbors and reduce property values, he said.
"Most importantly, the loss of the low-density aspect of our area" would result, he said. "Napili is a nice community, not too heavily traveled by tourists, but this zoning change would probably change that. As time passes, there are fewer communities on the west side where long-term residents can live in a relatively low-density environment in peace."
Other Napili Villas owners submitted a letter objecting to the rezoning, saying they feared it would result in the building of a "monster of a hotel in our front yard," which they said is a possibility that is "absolutely unacceptable."
"Once it has the zoning, nothing in our system can stop that from happening nothing," the owners said.
In letters responding to the Napili Villas owners' concerns, Jordan Hart, president of project consultant Chris Hart & Partners, sought to quiet their fears about the potential for a high-rise hotel.
Such a development would not occur, he said.
The county Department of Planning and the Maui Planning Commission have both recommended a height limit of three stories as a condition of zoning, and the Kahana Sunset has agreed to the limitation, he said.
"The three-story height limit for this property will by documented by adoption of county ordinance, when it goes before the Maui County Council for approval," he said. "If approved, all conditions relating to the zoning will be recorded against the property with the state Bureau of Conveyances system."
Hart pointed out that since the property is near the shoreline and within the special management area, "any future development proposal on the property must be reviewed by the county to ensure compliance with conditions of zoning. Public notice must be given. A public hearing must be held, and the proposed development must be reviewed and approved by the Maui Planning Commission."
Hart said the land use changes were being requested because the Kahana Sunset was built in 1971, based on a variance granted in 1968 as an apartment-condominium project on residentially zoned land. He pointed out that in 1971, the county did not have any restrictions on transient vacation rental use.
"Kahana Sunset has operated as a TVR apartment since its inception and is now 'grandfathered' to do so," he said. "Over time, Maui County code regarding TVR use has evolved to restrict TVR use to hotel-zoned properties only. To date, the 1968 variance continues to govern uses on the property. However, the county Department of Planning recognizes that the proper action is to bring the established use on the property into consistency with zoning."
Kahana Sunset has been paying property taxes at the hotel rate for many years, he said.
"No expansion or intensification of use is associated with this application," he said.
As part of work to armor the shoreline fronting the Kahana Sunset, a public shoreline access path will be constructed to allow neighbors to access the beach, he said. And drainage will be improved to properly dispose of storm waters, he added.
The community plan amendment and change of zoning recommendations from the commission advance to the Maui County Council for approval.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.