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Council committee discusses zoning change request for 266 Dickenson Street Project

By Staff | May 30, 2019

LAHAINA – Five members of the Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee of the County Council crossed the Pali to meet with West Siders last week Tuesday (May 21) at the West Maui Senior Center about the Change in Zoning request for the 266 Dickenson Street Project, from D-2 Two-Family District and R-2 Residential District to A-2 Apartment District.

West Side Councilwoman Tamara Paltin is the chair of the committee. She brought the meeting to the community.

Other committee council members in attendance were Shane M Sineci, vice chair; Michael J. Molina; Keani N.W. Rawlins-Fernandez; and Yuki Lei K. Sugimura.

Sixteen persons provided oral testimony – seven in opposition, nine in support – and not included in the mix are “written statements that have not yet been downloaded,” the Lahaina News learned.

It was after community input that real insight into the project was revealed, with presentations from project landowner Chris Ondatje and his land use consultant, Rory Frampton.

Frampton’s description summarized main project elements proposed for the property at the busy corner of Dickenson Street and Honoapiilani Highway.

Located in a National Landmark District, Dickenson Street Project plans call for an eight-unit, three-story apartment building, with seven two-bedroom and one single-bedroom unit. There are four units on the first floor, three on the second and one on the third, a total of about 6,000 square feet. There are two parking stalls per unit for 16 total.

It was an aesthetically pleasing power point, with current and historic maps, architectural and drawing board renderings and documentation supporting the development.

To the south, it is bounded by the Aina Nalu Vacation Condos. Across the street is Maria Lanakila Catholic Church and Sacred Hearts School (kindergarten through eighth grade), both in the National Historic District. Across the highway is Aloha Gas.

The turn from the highway onto Dickenson Street is tight; no truck or bus traffic permitted from this vantage point.

Property access from Dickenson Street is limited to right turn ins and right turn outs only.

Three of the committee members conducted a site visit that same afternoon, experiencing a first-hand view of the landowner’s vision and access restrictions.

In Frampton’s presentation, he was quick to inform council members of an unfortunate error made by county officials that loomed large as a potential liability.

According to Frampton, there were two zoning confirmation forms given to Ondatje designating the land as A2 Apartment District.

“He got official notice from the county – I think it was three times – that said it was A2 Apartment. He was notified after he purchased the property that it was actually D2 Duplex,” Frampton said.

“Chris bought the property with three zoning confirmation forms saying it was apartment. He went through his plans, hired his architect, came to the county and someone told him, ‘Hold on – that was a mistake! You’ve got to go through a zoning change.’ That was two years ago.”

Sugimura was sympathetic to Ondajte’s dilemma. “That’s a real unfortunate situation. I’m not sure what’s… They gave him that information, and he bought it based on that information,” she said.

Ondajte was an open-book; he answered everything, and more. It was a journey into Ondajte’s purpose for the project and his philosophy on life, in general.

“Inventory reduces costs. That’s my thought process. If you have more units out there for rent, it will reduce the costs,” Ondajte commented.

To reduce noise from the busy intersection and traffic on Highway 30, he plans to plant areca palms and variegated hau.

“What that does is creates a nice sound of the breeze. Actually, some of the car traffic noises, if it’s not horns, it kind of blends in with that feel, like a babbling brook or a river sound,” the landowner opined.

He was emphatic about “doing something for the kids,” and on many occasions during his talk, he repeated his major purpose in different words.

“If we don’t do something to make it better for the generations to come, then I think we have let it down. It’s incumbent on us to do something for the young people. It’s not okay to have our kids living in substandard housing,” the Kaanapali Hillside resident advised, “just to let you know where I’m coming from and what kind of person that I am.”

Ondajte’s intentions are true, he said.

“What I’m trying to do is help kids. If it’s not there, let’s do it someplace else, but let’s help kids.”

“If you have more units in Lahaina; it would be a better market for the consumer.

“Let’s team up; let’s do something together,” he remarked.

Ondatje reminded the panel about the faux pas made by the county and how it cost him money.

“My heart was to build something that worked really well for the community,” he said.

“If it is duplex, then we do have this small matter of the value of the land There is this matter. There are some consequences to that decision. But I am part of the community, and I like to help. Whatever I can do to help and move it in that direction, I am willing to do it.”

There were questions about the rental rates. Ondatje varied on the price tag from $2,000 to $2,800.

“What I’m looking to do is provide workforce housing,” he said matter-of-fact.

Paltin jumped in, “There is no restriction from any entity of what you can charge for the rentals.”

Frampton agreed with Paltin’s analysis. “It’s a privately funded project as mentioned; it’s under ten units. It’s just eight units; so, the workforce housing policy does not apply. So, there is no legal trigger to comply with the workforce housing policy or to put any kind of price rent control. It could rent for market.”

“So realistically,” Paltin challenged, “regardless of your intent, these units could rent for three grand, four grand, five grand.”

References about potential county liability overshadowed any decision making that evening.

No action was taken.

The matter of a bill for an ordinance to change zoning from D-2 Duplex and R-2 Residential District to A-2 Apartment was deferred to Executive Session.