Mayer: Makena

It’s crucial Maui makes no slip-ups deciding how Makena is developed

by DICK MAYER

It seems that our County Council is determined to approve a large, high-end housing project in Makena despite the General Plan Advisory Committee’s request to hold off on approving new large-scale developments. Fortunately, the council can first clarify the language and correct oversights that are contained in the Land Use Committee’s draft.

Chairman Riki Hokama, in his final piece of legislation after 10 years on the council, will lead the discussion that hopefully produces an improved ordinance, correcting errors and imposing the needed conditions: the total unit count, affordable housing, Piilani Highway improvements, water, phased construction deadlines and cost-sharing rules.

There seems to be a misperception that Makena will have only 1,000 total units. The actual on-site number would over 2,000 – 1,000 in the present upzoning plus more than 1,000 units on already entitled 152 acres. Add in concurrent work force housing and South Maui will have 4,000 new units.

Makena’s “affordable housing” component has been left unnecessarily confusing since the Housing Department has yet to establish the needed rules. A proposed condition says that Makena must follow the work force housing law. Although the law states that 50 percent of the total units must be affordable, the Land Use Committee discussion gave the false impression that the council was allowing the developers to produce only half of the required affordables, 500 instead of the required 1,000. The full council can clarify this by placing a condition that “one affordable house must be available for occupancy as each market-priced unit is constructed.

Since the Makena development is expected to generate gross revenues of $7 billion, it is not too much to require Dowling Co. be responsible for constructing and selling the affordable houses. Everett Dowling has established a fine reputation for building Hawaiian homes at low cost.

Piilani Highway between Kilohana Street and Mokulele Highway no longer meets federal highway standards. The County Council has already given Honua’ula/Wailea 670 permission for 1,400 units in addition to hundreds of units already being built in South Kihei and Wailea. An additional 2,000-plus units in Makena and the required affordable houses throughout the Kihei region will produce gridlock on Piilani Highway!

Future highway construction remains unfunded unless the council makes a stronger condition. The council has yet to consider that a new mauka alignment parallel to Piilani would, according to state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka, have to be paid for by insufficient county funds. The council should add a highway impact fee, putting the burden on the upscale market-priced housing, not the affordables.

Water for the off-site affordable houses was not discussed. In fact, the Water Department stated that there was no water available from county sources. The council must put the burden on the Makena developers to provide water for the affordable units. Significantly, most council members said that their approval of this large controversial project was motivated by the downturn in our economy. Construction unions testified they need jobs now. The council should motivate the developer to get the project going as soon as possible and not be allowed to claim financial difficulties. Add a condition stating that all remaining entitlements for future projects at Makena are contingent upon the completion of at least 200 market and 200 affordable units by December 2011.

Let us hope that Chairman Hokama and his colleagues consider these significant issues and modify the draft conditions in the Makena Resort upzoning request.


Dick Mayer is a retired Maui Community College professor. He is vice chairman of the General Plan Advisory Committee, but the views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect positions of the GPAC.