A&B Closer to New $151 million, 600 Unit North Kihei Project

N. Kihei housing project backed

Land use changes recommended for council approval

December 16, 2010 – By CHRIS HAMILTON, Staff Writer
Article from The Maui News
WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission recommended approval Tuesday of A&B Properties’ requests for land use measures needed to proceed with the developer’s $151 million, 600-unit north Kihei project.

The next step is whether Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa and the new Maui County Council will support the bills seeking community plan amendments and changes of zoning.

If the measures and building permits are approved, construction of the “mixed-use” community on 94.3 acres could begin in late 2012 and last for five years, said A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun.

By the time “For Sale” signs are ready to be planted in the north Kihei subdivision’s front yards, A&B is betting the housing market will have improved enough to sell the planned apartments, single-family homes, condominiums and commercial space.

Commission member Penny Wakida cast the only vote against A&B’s plans. She called the project “premature.” She said there are at least 600 home and condo listings unsold in Kihei. So, she asked Chun, what makes this project any different?

“This is for local residents,” Chun said. “And we see signs that our economy will improve over time, and we want to make sure that this project is ready so it dovetails in time for the need.”

On Tuesday, the commission voted 7-1 to support A&B’s requests for:

* About 53 acres, a community plan amendment from agriculture to multifamily apartments and a change of zoning from an agricultural to A-1 apartment district.

* About 15 acres, a community plan amendment from agriculture to multifamily and a change of zoning from an agricultural to A-2 apartment district.

* About 25 acres, a community plan amendment from agriculture to single family and a change of zoning from an agricultural to R-1 residential district.

* About 1.4 acres, a community plan amendment from agricultural to business/commercial and a change in zoning from agricultural to B-2 community business district.

Even with the construction industry in the dumps, the project has detractors other than Wakida, particularly since it is along the corner of Mokulele and Piilani highways. Some worried aloud that the rectangular-shaped subdivision would increase traffic and that its traffic-mitigation plans would not be good enough to get state Department of Transportation approval. Others called it “urban sprawl,” although Chun noted that it’s next to another subdivision along Piilani Highway.

The county Planning Department previously wanted the long-delayed Maui Island Plan and individual community plans completed before moving ahead on the north Kihei project.

However, two years ago, the state Land Use Commission supported reclassifying the land from agriculture to urban. The LUC put 28 conditions in place for the project to get approval. Those conditions included getting approval from the state Department of Transportation, meeting high energy-conservation standards and providing affordable housing intended for Maui County residents.

A&B also must provide the north Kihei subdivision with a 7-acre community park with all the amenities, at least 1 acre of green space and bicycle trials and walking paths. Project supporters pointed out that the county’s General Plan Advisory Committee included the project site within future urban-growth boundaries for the Maui Island Plan.

That plan is part of the General Plan 2030 update, and it would be a step toward including it in the Kihei-Makena Community Plan.

A&B also has completed an environmental impact statement for the site, and Chun said the environmental review found no significant obstacles. There were no findings that the project would have an adverse cultural impact on the land, and endangered plants and animals were not threatened either, he said.

The project would satisfy a work-force housing requirement by providing at least 25 percent of the homes in the affordable range. Other housing would be close to that price range, Chun said. The rest of the homes would be sold at market value.

Chun said the plan calls for two-thirds of the homes to be multifamily units, with “clusters” of condos and apartments as tall as four stories high. The remainder would be single-family homes, he said.

Developers also plan to include a 1.4-acre commercial area with a grocery store, barber shop and maybe a gas station or doctor’s office.

In addition, the subdivision would satisfy the county’s “Show Me the Water” ordinance by getting the 500,000 gallons a day it needs through an A&B-planned water treatment facility along Waiale Road, or A&B would dig the wells it needs, said planning consultant Mike Munekiyo.

The subdivision would create about 200,000 gallons a day of wastewater, which would be treated at the Kihei Wastewater Treatment Facility, he said.

As for rain runoff, the designs – which are not yet complete – call for much of it to go into retention ponds. The rest would go into the Waiakoa Gulch, and some commission members worried the runoff would further damage Maui’s delicate reef system. They wanted to see more done to avoid runoff into the ocean.

Chun noted that, although project planners have been working on the subdivision for five years, they still need to put together detailed designs, engineering plans and artist renderings.

Public testimony was short, but community activist Dick Mayer was among those with questions.

He called for evening public meetings on the project to allow more Kihei residents to attend. But commission Chairman Jonathan Starr said he’s seen “a lot of letters against this.”

Commission member Kent Hiranaga said it could be 10 years before the Maui Island Plan and individual community plans are completed, and it would be unfair to make people wait so long for affordable homes.

Mayer accused A&B of being in the zoning “entitlement collecting business.”

His comment was echoed by commission member Warren Shibuya, who expressed frustration with developers getting land entitlements and then not proceeding with plans.

“A&B is one of them,” he said.

But Shibuya added that he likes the north Kihei project and its location.

* Chris Hamilton can be reached at chamilton@mauinews.com.