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West Maui workforce housing development amid county approval process

By Staff | May 19, 2016

Kaiaulu at Kaanapali is proposed mauka of Honoapiilani Highway 800 feet north of the Kaanapali Parkway intersection.

KAANAPALI – Kaiaulu at Kaanapali is a proposed 100 percent workforce housing development tracking its way through the County of Maui Planning Department.

Located on 7.65 acres mauka of Honoapiilani Highway approximately 800 feet north of the Kaanapali Parkway intersection, Kaiaulu is described by the developer as a “33-unit affordable single-family residential housing subdivision.”

The application for the subdivision denotes surrounding property uses. To the west, Kaiaulu abuts Honoapiilani Highway; the Kaanapali Golf Course maintenance yard is situated north; Kaanapali South Course hole 13 is to the east; and the Lahaina Sewer Pump Station #2 is located to the south.

The 2004 Environmental Impact Statement for the property cites: “On occasion odors can be detected on the project site emanating from this facility (pump station #2),” and disclosure to potential buyers is a requirement of development.

The developer is Aina Lani Pacific LLC, and its president is Howard S.K. Kihune, former West Maui County Councilman.

Individual lot sizes will be approximately 5,000 square feet. The three-bedroom homes will range from 1,276 to 1,761 square feet, including a two-car garage.

“The entire proposed project will be 100 percent affordable and sold as house and lot packages in fee simple,” the Aina Lani Pacific prospectus reads.

Although the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns will have the final say over the price tag of the initial offering, sales prices are anticipated to range from $372,000 to $579,000.

Ten units will be marketed to below moderate-income residents; 16 units will be sold as median income; and seven units will be offered to above-moderate income residents.

The Maui County Code defines above-moderate income as households with the gross annual family income of more than 120 percent, but not more than 140 percent of the area median income as established by HUD. Moderate income is 100 percent of median income. Below-moderate income means households with a family income of 80 percent, but not more than 100 percent, of the area median income.

The Resident Workforce Housing Agreement with Aina Lani Pacific states that upon completion of construction and sale of the units, the county agreement with Bach Corporation for 12 “employee (affordable) housing units” will have been met, with the other 21 residences credited to the developer on a unit-for-unit basis.

The Bach Corporation is the developer of Wailele Ridge in Napili, a 158-unit residential complex. Its project sales manager is Howard Kihune Jr., also of Aina Lani Pacific.

It has not been 100 percent smooth sailing for the workforce housing development, and final approval has not been granted.

A variance application for the subdivision was filed with the Department of Planning by Sandra Duvauchelle of Lehua Builders General Contractors. Duvauchelle is a member of the Maui Planning Commission and represents Aina Lani Pacific in the request for the county “to delete the requirement that multiple access roads must be provided.”

The request was forwarded to the Board of Variances and Appeals (BVA), and it was approved in February.

The developer of Kaiaulu, Howard Kihune, is a member of the BVA, and he was recorded as voting in favor of the project variance at its Feb. 25 meeting.

The Lahaina News questioned whether or not this might be a conflict of interest; an answer has not yet been provided by county officials.

Michele McLean, deputy director of the Maui Planning Department, explained BVA procedures.

“After the BVA takes action at a meeting, at a subsequent meeting they will adopt a Decision and Order (and) someone would have 30 days from the adoption of that Decision and Order to file an action in court.”

The Decision and Order has not been adopted, and an action has not been filed in court at this time.

Further, a Zero-Lot-Line Overlay application was also submitted for the project with the Department of Public Works.

A zero-lot-line house is defined as a piece of residential real estate in which the structure comes up to or very near to the edge of the property line.

McLean provided an update on the status of this application: “Public Works already gave their okay; we (Department of Planning) have not.”

Kihune is seeking grant funds from the County of Maui’s Affordable Housing Fund in the amount of $884,000 to pay for the cost of a photovoltaic system as an amenity for each of the 33 units.

West Maui County Councilwoman Elle Cochran is not in favor of granting the public funding to a private developer.

“This appropriation doesn’t result in housing,” she stressed. “You can’t live in a solar panel. This fund exists specifically to increase the (number of) affordable housing units in Maui County, and paying for solar panels on an already proceeding project does nothing to increase the numbers of affordable housing units.”

On Facebook, she posted, “This appropriation will come before the council and will be open to community testimony on the 20th of May, as it is in the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, and that will be first reading of the budget. It is our intention to remove this line item It is our understanding that the Project will proceed regardless of receipt of the grant from the (Affordable Housing) Fund; only the photovoltaic systems are contingent upon receipt of the grant.”

Others have voiced their opinion about the development, including Gary Weiss in a Lahaina News letter to the editor.

He questioned the location and described it as being “squeezed in on a hideous tract of land previously zoned as light industrial. This borders a water treatment plant, a maintenance yard and a very noisy highway, and it’s surrounded by innumerable power lines.

“The terrain is narrow and convoluted, and access will be limited to a single road (not the usual mandated dual access). This required a variance from the Maui Fire Department (also conveniently sped through the approval process despite objections).

“‘Affordable’ is one thing; livable and safe is another.”

True, workforce housing is a rare commodity on Maui; no one would deny the desperate need for it. But does this mean that full approval should be granted without comprehensive scrutiny from the community?”