Originally referred to as Wailea 670, the development that is now known as Honua'ula is more than three decades in the making. This is a mixed-use development that would span across 670 acres in South Maui. This area, which is located just south of Maui Meadows and across the highway from the existing Wailea community, is both culturally and environmentally sensitive.
While opponents of the development say that the project is not advantageous for the communities, others say that it will provide much-needed affordable housing to the area. Recently, a major agreement has been reached as a result of years of stressful negotiations, but more negotiations are underway.
Balancing The Environment with Housing Needs
Previously, the development plans included approximately 1,400 units of single-family homes and multi-family units. In addition, the development included plans for commercial spaces and a golf course. The environmental and cultural impacts of such a large development in this strategic area were introduced by notable groups like Maui Unite and Sierra Club. Negotiations have been between these organizations, the County of Maui and Honua'ula Partners, LLC.
While the initial development plans provided accommodations for culturally and environmentally sensitive areas, the claim introduced by Maui Unite and Sierra Club contended that the accommodations did not go far enough to fully address the situation. After the claim was made, the developer agreed to complete more archaeological and environmental studies in the area.
Among other relevant factors, the findings of these studies indicated that this 670-acre parcel of land had several hundred important historic features and sites. The archaeological findings included the identification of ancient farming terraces, living quarters, stepping stone trails, and ceremonial sites. Notably, many of the sites that were identified through the developer’s studies are now covered by perpetual protection.
Affordable Housing A Necessary Consideration
Another aspect of the claim was tied to affordable housing units. The claim specifically contended that the 250 affordable housing units that were initially required did not take into account environmental concerns. These units were projected to be built inside the Kaonoulu Light Industrial Subdivision, which is located in North Kihei.
The settlement between these parties is encompassing. It includes an agreed-upon protected area of 160 acres. This area preserves both endangered and rare animal and plant species that are native to the area. It also safeguards historic lands that have been home to ancient Hawaiian villages and cultural sites. The extensive settlement agreement also reaches some areas of the historic Kanaio-Kalama Road. The eighteen-hole golf course that was originally proposed was dramatically reduced in size and has most recently been eliminated from design plans.
Maintaining What We Love About Maui
In addition, the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust will place a conservation easement on the protected lands. Both the general public and cultural practitioners will have specific rights to select areas. A large deer fence will be installed to protect wildlife from encroachment. This is in combination with a small public park located near a 116-foot-wide buffer boundary near Maui Meadows. There are now also height restrictions for structures that will be constructed near the buffer boundary.
The history of this land's development is extensive. In the 1990s, zoning for this land was altered to accommodate the project. Wailea 670 was originally approved in 2008 by the Maui County Council with District Phase I Developmental Approval. At that time, the Maui County Council placed several development conditions on the project.
These included preservation areas for both environmentally and culturally sensitive areas. One of the specific conditions was a native plant preservation area that was to be between 18 and 130 acres in size. In 2012, the EIS and the EA were accepted by the Maui Planning Commission. However, this initial approval was challenged by a claim that was filed in 2012.
Wailea Properties For Sale
A Litany of Hurdles Left To Overcome
During the negotiations surrounding this claim, the developers stated that Low Impact Design principles would be used. For example, the design includes the continued presence of existing gulches. An extensive network of bikeways and sidewalks would be incorporated into the design. This includes the placement of bike lanes in both directions on Pi’ilani Highway. This road will grow from a two-lane road to a four-lane road, but it will have roundabouts rather than turn signals at intersections. Additional negotiations included special requests for other streets throughout the development.
The homes for sale in Wailea as well as the mixed-use commercial spaces would remain in place. Initially, affordable housing was to be located in North Kihei. Through negotiations, at least some of the affordable homes for sale in Wailea will now be located within the Wailea 670 development. However, others may still be located in North Kihei.
The specific price range of the homes and condos will be determined at a future date and will be based on affordable housing statistics. Both rental units and fee simple properties for sale will be included in the development. Approval for the units must be granted by the Maui County Council. While the two parties have come to many agreements through intense negotiations, it is important to note that the Maui Planning Commission must grant final approval for the settlements.
Recent Developments For Wailea 670/Honua'ula
In February 2022, the development group went in front of the Maui County Council once again to seek approval for the next phase of the Wailea 670 development. This time, two different groups stepped up to challenge the project. These groups are Maui Tomorrow Foundation and Hoʻoponopono O Mākena.
The project has evolved substantially over the years. Currently, the proposed development includes 288 workforce housing units and an additional 861 residential units. Approximately one-quarter of the 670 acres would be permanently preserved by a conservation easement. Both of the groups that are currently requesting intervention with the development have stated that their interests near Wailea 670 would be directly impacted by the development. Maui Tomorrow also went a step further by claiming an insufficient number of affordable housing units and negative cultural and environmental impacts.
A Tough Test for the Maui Planning Commission
The Maui Planning Commission saw no opposition from the Honua'ula attorney. The attorney stated that the issues presented were straightforward and that he welcomed a closer examination of the facts. Contesting parties are required to present supporting evidence in front of the Maui Planning Commission. The developer’s attorney stated that they are forthright with all aspects of the development. The developer welcomes all questions that these groups have raised, and it has appropriate and comprehensive answers to those questions.
During the session, supporters of the development stated that the project struck an appropriate balance between creating much-needed affordable housing in the area and preserving sensitive cultural and environmental areas. One group supporting the development is the Hawaii Community Foundation. On the other hand, opponents of the project stated that there are not enough workforce homes and affordable Wailea condos for sale in the current proposal. Opponents also believe that the project does not go far enough to address the potential impacts on sensitive areas. One individual opponent, who is a lineal descendent of the island’s native population, stated that simply following procedures was not the same as doing the right thing.
We Are Still Years Away
Immediately after the conclusion of the commission’s session, mediation steps began. A contested case hearing got underway on March 22. If the parties can come to an agreement, the developer must then request District Phase II Development approval from the commission. Additional permits and approvals must also be obtained before the developer can break ground on the Honua'ula project.
The extensive design and development of the Wailea 670 project have been revised many times over the years as different parties have raised their concerns related to affordable housing as well as sensitive areas. The project has progressively obtained approvals from different organizations and departments, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the State Historic Preservation, the Maui County Council, and others. However, with another dispute pending, it is clear that more work needs to be done before the future of this project can be solidified. If you're interested in learning more about this project or any of the other projects on Maui, feel free to reach out to me for more information.
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Posted by Evan Harlow R(S) 82003 on