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Project district OK'd for Kapalua Mauka
The Maui News
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

WAILUKU - A deadlock in the Maui Planning Commission broke Tuesday afternoon, giving Maui Land & Pineapple Co. approval for its plans to build multimillion-dollar homes and a new private golf course at the Kapalua Resort.

After the seven commissioners came to a standstill Monday night on Phase 2 project district approval for Kapalua Mauka, the planning commission recessed a public hearing at the Lahaina Intermediate School cafeteria until Tuesday afternoon.

The development, which earlier this year had received project district zoning approval from the County Council, also was seeking a special management area use permit for off-site infrastructure improvements to support Kapalua Mauka.

Both approvals were granted Tuesday, with commissioners Bruce U'u, Johanna Amorin, Dr. William Iaconetti, Patricia Eason and John Guard voting for passage.

The two dissenting votes on Phase 2 project district approval came from Jonathan Starr and Diane Shepherd, although Starr voted in favor of the SMA permit. Amorin was not present at Monday's hearing held in West Maui, but provided the fifth vote needed for action Tuesday.

Kapalua Mauka, the planned expansion of Kapalua Resort, includes 690 residential units and five acres for commercial development. Its projected build-out is over a 15- to 20-year period.

The development approvals given Tuesday cover only an initial phase that includes: 51 rural residential lots, a redesigned private golf course, driving range, 22 condominium homes, and related improvements including off-site drainage improvements.

Bob McNatt, president of community development for ML&P, said even after Tuesday's approval, construction of the first phase of Kapalua Mauka won't start for at least another year, maybe two. Now that Phase 2 project district approval is squared away, the development faces administrative reviews with the Maui Planning Department staff, which will review final construction plans for Phase 3 project district approval.

The deadlock Monday night resulted from questions over ML&P's commitment to building affordable housing, with commission Chairman Wayne Hedani calling ML&P's response to affordable housing expectations as "chicken s---."

The comment came in response to Ryan Churchill, ML&P vice president of community development, who pointed out that the first 51 residential units had received preliminary subdivision approval and therefore would not be required to follow a proposed county work force housing policy that asks for up to 50 percent affordable units in future developments. The Maui County Council on Nov. 3 approved the policy, which Mayor Alan Arakawa has said he will veto. Churchill said ML&P would adhere to the policy when the ordinance is law - with the exception of the first 51 residential lots it plans to develop.

For those first 51, the developer will comply with what's required in the district zoning - build 40 affordable units upfront (believed to be a first-time requirement of any Maui developer) and then one affordable for every four market units built.

Starr reiterated his assessment Tuesday that ML&P was trying to "weasel" out of the proposed affordable housing policy by using a loophole in the law. He said the developer was not living up to the "spirit and intent" of the county work force housing policy, which could become law even if the mayor vetoes the bill.

County planner Ann Cua pointed out that a condition in the project district zoning set by the County Council states that "prior to final subdivision approval, any affordable housing policies adopted by the County of Maui that would result in a greater number of affordable dwelling units shall apply."

On Tuesday, McNatt reiterated his company's intent to follow both the letter and spirit of the county ordinances and to build the number of houses as directed.

McNatt also read off a list of affordable housing developments that his company has created in different parts of the island since the 1960s. Those numbers alone add up to as many as 567 homes, with projections reaching as high as 1,300 if ML&P's proposed Pulelehua development at Mahinahina is approved.

In response to a question from Hedani on Tuesday, McNatt said Maui Land & Pine's current plans for new affordable housing units off-site from the resort could amount to as many as 140 units within the next 27 months. If these units are all built as affordable, the number would exceed even the proposed 50 percent work force residential housing policy requirements, McNatt said.

Prior to Tuesday's vote, Starr explained his disapproval of Kapalua Mauka by saying he could not support a community with homes that could be priced as high as $10 million and an exclusive golf course that would charge as much as $150,000 a year for membership.

"This is not the direction we should be going," Starr said.

Shepherd on Tuesday said she believed the timing of the development of a proposed resort-residential community was not right.

"This is not the sort of thing we should be building now," she said.

On Monday, Shepherd had cited traffic impacts as one of the reasons she could not allow Kapalua Mauka to go forward. "People are suffering here, and everything we add on makes it worse," she said.

In response to traffic concerns, McNatt noted ML&P will pay traffic impact fees that could amount to as much as $744,000 and had helped create Lahaina Bypass Now, a nonprofit community organization seeking to make the Lahaina bypass highway a state priority.

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