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County planning director visits controversial structure under construction in Napili

By BY LOUISE ROCKETT - | May 21, 2021

The new structure is taller than surrounding buildings and is visible from Napili Bay. PHOTO BY DON WHITEBREAD.

NAPILI — It rises like a behemoth at the corner of Hui Drive and 5385 Lower Honoapiilani Road in Napili.

The partially built two-story structure towers well-over other two-story buildings in the Napili Bay Improvement District.

The property owner/developer is Greg Brown, Brown Development, and Judge Studio are the architects.

The Maui County Planning Department granted a Special Management Area Minor Exemption Permit on April 10, 2019, for the single-family dwelling. Point of fact, however, the 2021 Maui County Parcel Information designates the tax class for the parcel, TMK 2-4-3-002:057-0000, as a “Short-Term Rental.”

Construction commenced in 2020.

With a cautious eye at first, neighbors watched; then multiple questions began to pile up in the building debris about the height of the residence, granting of the SMA Exemption, fill, retaining wall, usage, number of bedrooms and lack of transparency and public notification.

Answers not forthcoming, Junya Nakoa called a meeting at the site last week Monday morning, May 10, to seek clarity about this convoluted mess approved by the county.

The gathering was an eclectic representation of lineal descendants, environmentalists, neighbors, contractors and concerned Mauians.

The director of the Maui County Planning Department, Michele McLean, and Deputy Director Jordan Hart attended and were intensely cross-examined.

Maui Causes videotaped the proceedings, and it has been aired on Akaku: Maui Community Media since May 13 on seven different occasions.

It was clear by opinions expressed and documents and drawings presented both before, during and after the meeting that either the county had misplaced the public trust, the project isn’t consistent with district specifications, or, more likely, a combination of both.

Pat Lindquist, president of the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation, has a diplomatic approach to the conundrum. “After review of the Planning Department records, which led to the irresponsible issuance of a SMA Permit Exemption to Brown Development and denied the citizens and property owners of their rights to public hearings to uphold the regulations in the adopted Napili Bay Improvement District, the Board sent a letter to Director McLean requesting the rescission of the SMA Permit,” she wrote.

“Further,” Lindquist continued, “The Napili Civic Improvement District Ordinance, Bill No. 13 (1964, as revised and codified, Chapter 19.60) sets conditions regarding height and style of new buildings with the purpose of encouraging and maintaining the orderly and harmonious appearance and esthetic development of structures in the district. These stipulations were not complied with in the permitting process.”

Coach Chris Salem has been an outspoken opponent to the development from the beginning.

“Bottom line,” he averred, “the residents and property owners of the Napili community were denied of their rights to have voice on a massive development that the planning director exempted from public review.”

Salem’s major objection?

“The fact the developer could so blatantly manipulate the county codes and county officials by calling a project a single-family home when, in fact, it is being built under the hotel section of the County Code,” the former executive assistant to the Maui County Council added.

On display at the outside assembly were blueprints drafted by the developer’s architect that seemingly covered hidden square footage between the lines.

Salem explained, “The first floor is shown as having a 17-foot ceiling, but the staircase has an intermediate landing that will allow the middle to be filled in with a complete floor system, thereby creating four levels on the structure.”

Although potentially a costly proposition, the county could save face and revoke the development’s permit status.

Stepping up to the plate, McLean is responding. She e-mailed a list of some of the next steps to Lahaina News.

1. Check to see if the retaining wall is properly permitted;

2. Review the building plans to see if there is a “cavity” or unmarked space that could readily be converted to living space;

3. Examine the grading permit to see if there was fill that would have added to the height;

4. Determine if any mistakes were made in the processing or if any misrepresentations were made by the applicant that could lead to the revocation of the SMA exemption or the sign-off on the building permit.

With regard to the immediate above, McLean advised: “Our review to date shows errors in judgment, but we need further review. I can’t say yet whether our errors would justify revocation, and that discussion would have to occur with the County Council and Corporation Counsel. We haven’t yet reviewed any applicant misrepresentations.”

McLean has been humbled: “I’d like to thank the community members who came out yesterday to share their thoughts and concerns with us and to let us answer their questions, particularly Junya Nakoa who organized the gathering. And I apologize and take responsibility for any shortcomings of the Planning Department in its approvals of this structure; we hope to work with the council to appropriately address this situation.”

The outcome is important, lifelong resident Glen Kamaka and Door of Faith church elder concluded.

“We have to think about our future. That’s who is going to be affected by all this, the future generations,” he said.