Major 670-acre housing project in Wailea aims to move forward; groups intervene


Part of Honuaʻula, a project planned for approximately 670 acres in Wailea, is being shown in a presentation today. PC: Munekiyo & Hiraga slideshow screenshot

A long-debated planned community proposed for 670 acres in Wailea called Honuaʻula applied for the next phase of county approval today – but two groups are contesting it.

Honuaʻula would develop single and multi-family homes, village mixed-use, preservation, conservation, and recreational/open space areas, and infrastructure. Of the 861 houses proposed, another 288 units would be housing for the workforce. In addition, 25% of the total project area will be dedicated to permanent preservation through conservation easements. The project is located on approximately 670 acres adjacent to Maui Meadows and Wailea Resort in South Maui.

With no opposition from Honua’ula attorney Cal Chipchase, the Maui Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the intervention of two community organizations, Maui Tomorrow Foundation and Hoʻoponopono O Mākena, represented by attorney Ryan Hurley. Intervenors can participate in a contested case as a party, and they have the rights and responsibilities that the role entails, such as presenting evidence and cross-examining witnesses.

“We have reviewed the issues that have been raised and believe they are uncomplicated,” Chipchase said ahead of the vote. “We will not fight the procedural step; we will welcome them at the table. We are very open with this project. We have good answers to all questions and we can’t wait to bring you the answers.

The groups sought intervention, stating in a letter that they held land interests in properties near the project area; they will be directly and immediately affected by the requested action; and they have substantial interests in the proceedings, among other reasons.

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Additionally, Maui Tomorrow, in a group email, said the project did not have enough affordable housing and the plans would have negative environmental and cultural impacts.

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“We have serious concerns about the project,” Hurley said. “That’s the most important thing is that the applicants, the interveners, have due process in this proceeding. I think rushing is a mistake. I think the commission hearing it is dangerous. I think some mistakes could be made. If that’s how you want to go, we’re not going to oppose it.

The mediation steps will begin after the commission meeting today. If no agreement can be reached by the next committee meeting on March 8, a hearing into the disputed case will begin on March 22, with the committee appointed as hearing officer.

If the parties reach an agreement, the commission will move forward to consider the project’s application for District Phase II development approval. The project still needs several approvals and permits before being launched.

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Meanwhile, testimonials on the project were mixed on Tuesday.

Proponents called it a balance between preservation and housing; opponents called the labor units negligible and said the project would have negative environmental and cultural impacts.

Todd Apo of the Hawaii Community Foundation said he was happy the project had a chance to move forward.

“I think it not only provides the accommodation that Maui needs, but. . . these improvements around preservation and drainage infrastructure seem to be very much needed in the area,” he said.

Justin Kekiwi, a direct descendant of the area, said the project was not in the best interests of the community.

“It’s not for our community – let’s be real,” he said. “Going through the proper steps to do the right thing and actually doing the right thing is different.”

The Maui County Council in the 1990s approved the project district’s zoning. Then, in 2008, it granted development approval for Phase I of the project, which came with numerous conditions. The approvals were disputed, necessitating a new environmental impact statement and a new environmental assessment.

In 2012, the Maui Planning Commission accepted the EIS and EA. The same year, Sierra Club and Maui Unite challenged the EIS.

A 2016 settlement agreement established north and south conservation areas and an agreement with the county on the form and terms of the conservation easement to be overseen by a land trust. It also provides interim and long-term access protocols for the public; ensures the protection of historic trails; and expands the Maui Meadows Buffer Zone.

According to an overview of the project, the environmental impact study has been completed and accepted; the archaeological reports have been accepted by the State Historic Preservation and Bureau of Hawaiian Affairs.

The project would include 515 single-family residential units, 346 multi-family residential units and 288 workforce housing units, as well as 24 acres of mixed-use village and 103 acres of recreation and open space.

Honuaʻula would develop residential homes, village mixed-use, and preserve land in perpetuity on 670 acres in Wailea. Two groups question some of the conditions of the project. PC: Munekiyo & Hiraga slideshow screenshot
A slide on affordable housing plans and possible outdoor inspirations was presented during a presentation on Honuaʻula. PC: Screenshot of the Munkiyo and Hiragao slideshow
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