Makena Developer History

Makena Developer History – What Really Went on Before

Three years ago the Council Land Use Committee considered approving rezoning of hundreds of aces of makena land with these 41 conditions. The same proposal is being pushed today by Makena Resort investors, Will these conditions really make up for the fact that hundreds of acres of historic makena lands will be converte into a playground for millionaires only?

(c) 2004 Environment Hawai`i, Inc.
Volume 14, Number 12 June 2004

Makena Rezoning Request Edges Toward Conditional Council Approval

June 2004: With the recent attachment of 41 conditions to lucrative zoning changes proposed by Makena Resort Corp., one might think the Maui County Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee was being tough on the company. Two letters to the editor in The Maui News following the committee’s April 14 decision went so far as to call the conditions extortion and warned that such burdensome requirements could discourage future development on Maui.

But the conditions, though numerous, aren’t worth much if they aren’t carried out or enforced. And though they govern everything from noise control to wall heights and require the resort to contribute resources to education, water sources, road improvements and affordable housing, the language relating to compliance is loose enough to allow the developer to wriggle free.

Condition 20 requires Makena Resort to provide to the planning director and the county council annual reports on the status of its compliance. But instead of setting specific deadlines by which the resort must meet the committee’s conditions, condition 20 allows the developer to determine “a reasonable estimate of the time needed for full compliance.”

The consequence for non-compliance is equally soft. Condition 21 states: “Failure to fulfill any condition may result in a reversion to former or more appropriate zoning and/or community plan designations or other remedies.”

If the developer gets its zoning changes, and starts erecting buildings while setting its own schedule for compliance, what happens if the county later finds conditions haven’t been met?

“There is no enforcement desk for conditions at the county that has been reliable,” says Lucienne DeNaie of the Maui Sierra Club. “The county can put whatever conditions they want on a development, but in essence there is no procedure for follow-through to make sure there’s enforcement. We often find that the applicant will accept conditions and go back and ask for them to be amended. Amfac did it with North Beach.” As a condition of its zoning approval for this West Maui development, Amfac was prohibited from building more hotels there until the Honoapi’ilani Highway bypass was built.

“They went in after 15 years, with no bypass, didn’t care that traffic was bad, and said we need an exception. This is done all the time,” DeNaie added in a recent phone interview.

According to the Maui County Code, changes in zoning must conform to policies set forth in the county’s general and community plans. While Makena Resort says its new zoning is supported by maps in the community plan, DeNaie and others have argued that this isn’t enough.

“Policy means not just the map,” says DeNaie. Policies in the Kihei-Makena plan “have a clear expectation of protection of cultural sites, water quality that has not been met by this project.”

The full council is expected to have its first reading of the rezoning request later this month. Whether the council chooses to tighten the language in the conditions could make the difference between a Makena that the people of Maui will still recognize as part of their home and a 600-acre monument to what the average resident can never have.

Marching Over Makena

People on Maui have fought Makena Resort from the beginning, and so far, have lost or settled nearly every battle.

“Condo-buyers go home.” That was just one of the slogans area residents wrote on protest signs back in the early 1980s, when the Japanese corporation known as Seibu applied for a Special Management Area permit to build the Maui Prince Hotel.

In 1973, Seibu bought about 16 acres of beachfront property from Ulupalakua Ranch for $2.5 million, and “an additional 1,000 acres from the Ranch for $7.5 million to create the proposed Makena Resort,” according to a timeline compiled by the activist group Maui Tomorrow. That same year, the timeline states, the developer’s resort plan sparked the first protests.

In 1975, Seibu, A&B Properties, C. Brewer, and Wailea Development Corp. jointly signed a Central Maui Source Development Agreement with the county Department of Water Supply. The agreement granted the developers up to 13.4 million gallons of water a day for their projects in Central and South Maui, in exchange for their contributing millions of dollars to the development of water sources and transmission lines from the ‘Iao aquifer. According to Maui Tomorrow, Seibu and Wailea Resort contributed $7 million to the project.

In the years following, Seibu paved part of the old dirt Makena Road, completed two golf courses, the Makena Golf Clubhouse, public comfort stations, parking, picnic areas, tennis courts, and opened the $40 million, 300-room Maui Prince Hotel.

The hotel was completed in 1986, despite opposition from the Sierra Club Maui, People to Save Makena, and others, who filed a complaint in Second Circuit Court to invalidate the SMA permit that the county had issued. Five years earlier, protesters challenged Seibu’s plan to close a section of the Hoapili Highway/Makena Road, which was part of the approximately 138-mile-long King’s highway. In the end, Hui Alanui o Makena settled its court challenge to Seibu’s proposal and the company acquired a portion of the road through a land exchange with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

In 1995, the company sought and received approval of boundary amendment changes to 146 acres of agricultural land to allow for the construction of a hotel and condominiums. The approval was conditioned on, among other things, the developer providing affordable housing, adequate water and road capacity, preservation of historical sites, and protection of nearshore water quality.

In November 1999, Makena Resort approached Maui County with a request for zoning changes to 603.303 acres: 441.29 acres from various zoning classifications to park zoning, 119.719 various acres to apartment zoning, 3.361 apartment-zoned acres to residential, 46 residential acres to BR (business/residential), 28.173 various acres to hotel zoning, 9.817 various acres to business, and 483 apartment acres to residential.

The Maui Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed changes July 25, 2000. At that meeting, the commission recommended that the County Council approve the changes, subject to ten conditions including limits on the density and size of residential and business units, regulations on noise and lighting relating to public access, school facilities, transportation improvements, and compliance with county affordable housing requirements.

In 2001, the County Council’s Land Use Committee held seven hearings between and during which members were regularly updated and informed about water availability, traffic conditions, and other infrastructure issues surrounding the development. By December, the committee, with some tweaks to the Planning Commission’s conditions, recommended approval. To make sure those conditions were enforceable, the committee (except for members Wayne Nishiki and Patrick Kawano) recommended that the county clerk record a unilateral agreement and declaration for conditional zoning to make the conditions run with the property.

It seemed as close to a done deal as one could get, but the recommendation was never brought before the entire council for approval. Instead, according to a February 27, 2003, letter from Makena Resort Corp.’s general manager Roy Figueiroa, “The council then held an additional public hearing on January 24, 2002. Following the public hearing, the council referred the application to its Land Use Committee and no additional meetings were held in 2002. The Land Use Committee referred the application to the newly elected 2003-2004 County Council in January 2003 and the council subsequently referred the application to its new Planning and Land Use Committee.”

Round Two

This time around, the committee members have mulled over the same issues they did in 2001. The committee began taking testimony on the issue last October, and the public lined up in droves with their signs in hand, “One O’ahu is enough,” or, “Vote for Makena.”

The Maui Chamber of Commerce took out a nearly full-page ad in The Maui News headed, “Makena: Rights to Due Process,” which stated that the County Council had years ago “set aside areas in the south and north sections of our island for resorts and activities to help attract and grow this new industry… Hence, the south water delivery system and roads would be paid for by those companies willing to invest in this huge economic conversion.” Because Makena Resort had invested millions in water source delivery and storage, the chamber asked, “Can you just decide that you can turn away from a negotiated contract after the other side has fulfilled its commitments?”

Another full-page ad was taken out by Marcia Godinez (a Kahului resident who used a home equity loan to pay for the ad). Godinez called for the protection of Makena’s shoreline areas and archaeological remains, and announced a Makena video contest intended to increase “public awareness about the priceless value of this area.”

In addition to the war of words played out in the newspapers, state and county government agencies weighed in on water, archaeology, transportation, and a host of other issues.

Take a Number

How the development would affect the central Maui water system was one of the biggest sticking points for the committee and many members of the public.

At full buildout, which the developer says should take about 24 years, the Makena Resort project is expected to require 1,074,910 gallons of water a day, according to a document submitted to the council by Figueiroa. In the short term, the resort is expected to need 124,600 gallons a day for its timeshare units, which would be completed in the first two years of development.

As of today [2004], it’s not clear whether the Department of Water Supply will be able to meet either the short or long term demand. Its current water budget is tight and the department has taken the position that the Central Maui Source Development Agreement expired in December 1999 and, therefore, the county owes Makena Resort nothing in the way of water.

While Makena Resort has contended that it still has outstanding water credits with the county, the DWS’ Ellen Kraftsow says Makena Resort will have to queue up with everyone else seeking water. Her boss, DWS director George Tengan, says the general policy with respect to issuing water meters is that if water is available, a meter will be issued. If it isn’t, “then obviously we cannot issue” one.

And that’s bad news for Makena Resort.

The DWS has about three-dozen pages full of outstanding commitments for central Maui water. Filling these commitments would consume 0.565 mgd, with an additional 100,000 gallons a day reservation submitted by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. According to a county document titled “Water Commitments Outstanding,” private parties have already deposited $2,638,695 for water reservations.

These commitments plus the system’s current withdrawals of about 24.4 mgd leave less than 1.5 mgd available from the Central Maui system. “Please note that this does not include Spencer Homes nor O’oka affordable housing projects, as these have not yet applied for meters or meter reservations. Also not included is the majority of the Wailuku Project District,” Tengan wrote in an August 2003 letter to the Board of Water Supply.

With regard to the status of other subdivisions, Tengan noted that the tally was “in progress.” Even so, he identified 143,000 gallons a day for subdivisions that had completed improvements but were not “showing full water use.” In addition, he found 1.885 mgd earmarked for pending subdivisions.

Then there are the projects given discretionary approvals by the county. While these projects are not guaranteed any water, they are taken into consideration when calculating potential demands. Tengan noted in his letter that of the roughly 8.5 mgd needed to supply all these projects, developments accounting for about 3.8 mgd have been put on notice that they “may be required to develop or participate in [water] source development.” That still leaves a projected anticipated additional demand on DWS water of well above 4.5 mgd.

Regime Shift

In July 2003, the ‘Iao aquifer was designated a state groundwater management area, which routes any applications for water made after July through the state Commission on Water Resources Management. The DWS can still issue meters for service supplied by the adjacent Waihe’e aquifer, and said in February it will grant first priority to “existing paid-for reservations and the DHHL [state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands].” Apart from these projects, the department will continue to give out meters from the date of designation until 800,000 gallons per day in estimated demand beyond committed water is reached. At that point, it will stop issuing meters, pending an assessment of the situation at the time or possibly the development of new sources of water. Within this 800,000 gpd limit, the Department will issue meters only to those ready to receive service.

“To date,” Tengan wrote in a February letter to councilmember Nishiki, “roughly 440,000 gpd in non-reserved meters have been issued against this amount, so absent any changes, the remaining water would be about 360,000 gpd.”

Judging by the long line of water applicants ahead of Makena Resort, its water needs are not likely to be met by the Department of Water Supply in the near future. Tengan says he wouldn’t object to Makena Resort developing its own water source and dedicating it to the county.

It would make sense for the resort to develop and dedicate a water system to the county, since the system already serving the resort area is run by the DWS, he says. In Kula and Upcountry, Tengan says, private developers have dedicated systems to the county.

Recognizing the limits of the Central Maui water system, the Planning and Land Use Committee has required Makena Resort to “participate in the funding and construction of adequate water source, storage, and transmission facilities and improvements to accommodate the proposed project in accordance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations of the county, and consistent with the county water use and development plan.”

Exactly when or how much Makena Resort is expected to contribute to water development was not specified, but the Kihei-Makena community plan prohibits further development until adequate infrastructure and facilities are in place prior to or concurrent with impacts of new development.

Do Over

In addition to the general concern about the development’s impacts to the water supply, lineal descendants of Hawaiians who lived in the Makena area are up in arms over the resort’s treatment of ancient sites. Maile Lu’uwai, whose family goes back seven generations in Honua’ula (which includes Makena), has written in The Maui News that Seibu’s Makena lands are some of the most archaeologically and culturally rich in all of south Maui. It’s been estimated that there are more than 500 sites there, with one site potentially containing a complex of 30 features. But despite more than 30 years of surveying by archaeologists hired by Seibu, no one has a clear picture of what’s there. And without that, it’s unlikely community plan policies calling for protection of cultural sites will be met.

But the Planning and Land Use Committee has tried to address that problem.

In March, Holly McEldowney, administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division, rescinded her division’s 2000 determination that the change in zoning would have no impact. She informed Maui planning director Michael Foley, “We wish to revise our original comment … and state that we believe that the requested action, if approved, will have an effect on significant historic sites known to be present.”

In re-examining old correspondence and work done over the decades for the resort, the division found inconsistencies, including varying levels of work (some of it substandard), different types of mitigation, and cases where some sites were surveyed repeatedly and given different identification numbers.

“This unfortunate occurrence has made it much more difficult for us to evaluate the status of individual sites or site complexes and the need for any further survey or mitigation work,” McEldowney wrote. She then offered a list of mitigation measures, which the Planning and Land Use Committee incorporated into its conditions. These include a re-evaluation of all previous work done for the area and the preparation of a comprehensive map that accurately depicts inventoried areas, the re-investigation, or “ground-truthing,” of questionable areas, and the preparation of a scope of work for the proposed inventorying of all undeveloped areas.

DeNaie says that the resort’s tentative mitigation plan, not approved by the State Historic Preservation Division, preserved only 16 sites. “Who sets the significance of Maui’s history?” she asks.

To address those types of concerns, the committee required in its Condition 15 that the resort’s Cultural Resources Management Plan be “submitted for approval by [SHPD] and the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, in consultation with the Maui/Lanai Island Burial Council and Na Kupuna O Maui.”

What Options?

The Planning and Land Use Committee, for better or worse, spent weeks creating its list of 41 conditions, even when several members felt they were micro-managing and stepping into the Planning Commission’s kuleana. When the matter finally comes before the full council, the public will get to weigh in on them and the “same old dog-and-pony show,” as DeNaie puts it, will start all over again. If comments made during the committee’s March 31 meeting are any indication of which way several of the council is leaning, there’s a strong possibility the rezoning request will be approved.

Council member Charmaine Tavares said she believed the council had little room to do otherwise. Condemnation of the resort’s lands is not an option, she said, because the county simply cannot afford to buy the property. Denial of the zoning change would still allow the resort to build on the property. “What does [denial] mean? That means on all the property already zoned, they can go over and build whatever at a higher density than what they’re proposing here, and if that’s what the community wants, fine. If we vote no on this, then they’ll just go through the SMA process. So I’m not defending the developer. I think I’m representing the public. Given the cards or the deck we have to play with, we have certain options that are reasonable.”

In her next breath, however, she did admit that she was “suspicious of what Makena Resort is up to.” Because the current zoning already allows it to build a variety of structures, at higher densities even, Tavares asked, “Why are they even here?”

As for council members Riki Hokama, Dain Kane, Michael Molina, Danny Mateo, and Joseph Pontanilla, all seemed just to want Makena off their desks.

As Molina said, addressing a request by Council member Jo Anne Johnson to defer discussion on Makena until after the county budget was addressed: “Forgive my language, but I had one guy tell me, what the hell are you guys doing spending all your time on Makena? There’s other pressing needs in this community. By golly, move on.”

– Teresa Dawson

Before the above article was written, The 2002 rezoning hearing for Makena Resort was never acted upon.

Makena rezoning pros, cons detailed Council will take its first vote on the matter Friday
The Maui News
January 26, 2002
Staff Writer

WAILUKU – The Makena Resort’s request to rezone hundreds of acres in South Maui will be back before the Maui County Council for first reading action on Friday.

The request was recommended for approval on a 5-3 vote in the Land Use Committee, and it was not clear Friday whether council members heard anything that would change their minds in a six-hour public hearing.

The hearing was held Thursday night at the Kihei Community Center, with testimony from nearly 100 people. It was required when three council members – Charmaine Tavares, Jo Anne Johnson and Wayne Nishiki – requested a formal hearing.

But Thursday night’s testimony fell into the now-familiar pro- and anti-development arguments.

Those in favor of the rezoning proposal spoke about the need for jobs, especially in the construction industry, and about the reputation of resort owner Seibu Corp. as a good neighbor and corporate citizen. Opponents reiterated concerns about South Maui’s traffic congestion, public access to the shoreline and protecting the Iao aquifer – source of Central Maui and South Maui’s drinking water – from overpumping.

Rob Parsons, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club Maui Group and an outspoken critic of Makena Resort plans, said he hopes council members make a decision Friday based on accurate information and not based on construction workers’ calls for jobs.

“The unions have never met a project they didn’t like, and that does not equate with good planning – just jobs for jobs’ sake,” he said.

Parsons said project opponents presented council members with information on the inventory of dozens of construction projects already approved and on the books.

“We’ve got enough jobs to supply work for many years to come,” he said.

Those in construction unions disagree, maintaining that many projects on the books are either short-term or won’t move forward.

Roy Figueiroa, general manager of Makena Resort Corp., said he thought council members had a chance to hear many different viewpoints on the resort’s plans.

He said those in the construction industry wanted to address employment issues.

The resort’s development plans affect a lot of people, he said.

Figueiroa said he tried to correct a number of misconceptions about the resort’s plans, including the perception that the rezoning proposals might be larger and more far-reaching than they are in reality.

The resort, for example, is not planning to build a new golf course or a 500-room hotel, he said.

Much of the rezoning is to recognize hundreds of acres of golf course property that’s already in that use, Figueiroa said. Also, the resort’s plans for visitor accommodations have been scaled down to a time-share resort with 100 to 200 rooms.

Also, the current amount of proposed multifamily zoning is 123 acres, not the 500 to 550 acres claimed by some project opponents, he said.

Figueiroa said there was testimony about the resort attempting to close off public beach access, but the resort has very little beachfront property. And, for the shoreline property owned by the resort, 85 parking stalls have been provided for beachgoers, he said.

As for public concerns about water and traffic, Figueiroa said the council’s Land Use Committee has proposed 34 conditions in connection with the rezoning.

Those would “address a lot of concerns,” he said.

Parsons disagreed, saying the council hasn’t been given enough solid information on the amount of water available for the project or on the number of South Maui projects approved and waiting to begin construction.

Without that information, “it’s like continuing to write checks without ever balancing your checkbook,” he said.

The current bill to rezone the Makena lands includes conditions intended to safeguard against aggravating South Maui’s traffic congestion or against worsening other infrastructure deficiencies.

One condition requires the developer to make available 10 percent of new homes as “affordable” housing. Those residences would be built concurrently with market-priced units.

Committee members also approved conditions to reduce the density of apartment units, to protect the Iao aquifer from overpumping, and to require development to be phased with major roadway improvements.

Parsons said he doesn’t think much of the proposed conditions.

“The county doesn’t have the manpower or the will to enforce conditions imposed in zoning and the special management area,” he said.

Parsons cited an instance in which he said enforcement of conditions failed at the Maalaea Triangle project. The developer wasn’t supposed to grade the property at one time or work during winter months, and both those infractions occurred, he said.

“The conditions don’t stick. They just don’t,” he said.

The council meeting begins at 9 a.m. Friday in the eighth-floor Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui Building. Public testimony is allowed at the beginning of the session, before council members take action on agenda items.

Several councilors want to amend bill to address concerns over development

The Maui News
Staff Writer

WAILUKU – The Maui County Council delayed a decision Friday on Makena Resort’s plan to rezone hundreds of acres in South Maui as the council moves to tighten conditions on the project.

With several council members offering amendments to a pending bill that would provide the needed zoning, the council decided to hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Feb. 21 to discuss measures it hopes will offset the impact the resort’s development plan will have on Maui.

At that time, public testimony will be heard and council members will be able to seek additional information as they hash out the language of conditions that will be placed on the project if approved.

The conditions in the bill deal with everything from water and traffic to drainage, affordable housing, schools and bikeways.

Council Member Charmaine Tavares, who voted against the project in committee, offered language that would more stringently tie the pace of home construction to the pace of roadway improvements.

The developer would be allowed to develop 100 units after the zone change after paying a “voluntary” impact fee of $5,000 per unit until the county enacts a permanent transportation impact fee. After that, the developer would pay whatever new fee is set in place.

The Tavares amendment would not allow development of any additional homes until an assessment is done by the county Planning Department. Any new traffic improvements must be in place before additional homes are built.

Another amendment she is offering would require the developer to provide evidence that water is available for the project prior to building permits being issued. She also wants to require wastewater effluent or nonpotable water to be used for landscape irrigation.

Council Member Dain Kane is also offering several amendments, as is Council Member Alan Arakawa.

One of Kane’s amendments would require the developer to provide reports to the council every six months on its progress in complying with each condition.

“This amendment will ensure that the council . . . retains full oversight authority over the development’s progress,” Kane said.

One of Arakawa’s amendments is designed to ensure that all conditions placed on the project earlier by the state Land Use Commission are incorporated in any council approval.

At Friday’s meeting, about 40 people spoke on both sides of the issue, hammering home points that have been made in earlier hearings on the project.

Support for the project largely hinges on an economic argument – that Maui needs a steady supply of construction jobs, and the planned, slow build-out of 1,100 homes and a 100- to 200-room, time-share condominium would meet that need.

“It’s the economy,” said Kihei resident Robert Stewart, politely leaving off the “stupid” at the end of a sentence that became a political catchphrase in the 1992 presidential election. He said the benefits of the project must be balanced against any negative impacts, and compromises should be made that allow the project to go forward.

Makena Resort Corp., which also owns the existing Maui Prince Hotel, was also praised by several speakers as being a responsible developer and a good neighbor.

Opponents said that planned projects already on the books provide plenty of opportunities for construction workers and that Maui’s attraction to tourists is being ruined by overdevelopment.

“I already have visitors tell me they’re not coming back,” said Vicki Schulte, who owns two vacation rentals in South Maui.

She presented the council with a red basket full of eggs to demonstrate the dependence of the island on a single industry, which she said is being ruined by continued building.

“We keep looking at the same old eggs in the same old basket” for economic solutions, she said.

South Maui is already home to nightmare traffic congestion, project opponents told the council. They also are pointing to an overtapped water system, and raised concern over a lack of attention to drainage needs and erosion control.

County Water Director David Craddick clarified statements made earlier about the water situation on Maui.

There is enough water on Maui to serve a city the size of Honolulu, he said, enough water for development over the next 100 years.

“Don’t confuse that with the ability to deliver water,” he said of the limits on the existing county water system. He said the Iao aquifer, the main source of drinking water for Central and South Maui, has reached its limit.

“The water won’t be coming from there,” he said.

A fact sheet provided by Makena Resort Corp. General Manager Roy Figueiroa states that once a zoning change is approved, actual project plans can be submitted and water availability assessed.

The county Department of Water Supply is working on development of water sources outside of the Iao aquifer, the company said, and the resort is already included in the county master water plan.

Makena Resort has spent about $6 million for water source, transmission and storage through a joint venture formed in 1975 to bring water to South Maui and has used very little of the water it has developed.

The company noted that the resort is not expanding and has been designated for development since 1969.

Mayor unveils new stand on Makena – Arakawa: Apana late with new ‘vision’

The Maui News
October 17, 2002

Staff Writer

KAHULUI – During a televised debate on Maui’s environment Tuesday night, Mayor James “Kimo” Apana said he supports protecting land now owned by Makena Resort in South Maui from future development “at all costs.”

Heiau (Temple) Remains in Makena
Heiau Complex on land bought by Makena Resort

At times sounding more like the challenger to an existing administration than the incumbent, the mayor also said he does not support drilling any new wells in East Maui, announcing his opposition to a plan by the county Board of Water Supply to spend $50 million to bring water to Central and South Maui.

The surprising announcements came as Apana and his opponent, Maui County Councilman Alan Arakawa, squared off on the cable television show “Maui at the Crossroads,” which is broadcast each Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Akaku: Maui Community Television.

Makena Resort Partners is asking the county in a controversial application to approve a long-planned rezoning of the resort that could add up to 1,100 additional housing units to South Maui over the next 20 years.

Pointing at a picture held by debate co-moderator Lucienne de Naie that showed Big Beach in Makena with the mountainside behind it, Apana said, “This is the vision I have, of being in the water and seeing that preserved.”

Apana said he will do whatever it takes to preserve the property, including buying the land to preserve as open space…

The mayor said Maui’s economy is directly tied to protecting its environment…

Makena at Night. Photo by Bill Westerhoff

Photos copyright by William Westerhoff