Project for 53 luxury homes in Mākena clears hurdle after mixed testimony
After debates on whether adding 53 luxury homes in a hotel area would help or hurt Maui’s housing crisis, Maui Planning Commission cleared a key hurdle today for the project planned on 28 acres in Mākena.
Public testifiers said the H-2 Residential Project will help keep wealthy, out-of-state homebuyers in hotel areas and reduce demand on residential communities. Other residents voiced strong opposition, saying that affordable homes – not luxury homes – should be prioritized.
The commission during its regular meeting voted 6-1 to approve H-2’s final environmental assessment ahead of a special area management use permit. The permit is still needed for the project to move ahead.
Proposed by Wailuku-based H2R LLC, the project would develop up to 53 residential lots, beach parking, rock walls and related infrastructure on about 28 acres in Mākena. After the lots sell, owners would erect single-family homes. Overall construction cost is estimated at $128 million, according to the project’s final environmental assessment.
Near Maluaka Beach, the parcel already has hotel zoning and is bounded by Mākena Alanui Road, Mākena-Keone‘ō‘io Road and Mākena Golf and Beach Club. Previous landowners planned to build a 500-unit hotel on the 28 acres.
Pacific Rim Land Inc., managing partners of project ownership entity H2R LLC, said their plan for high-end residential homes will help alleviate pressure on housing geared for lower Area Median Income levels.
Maui native Carol-Marie Lee, who was raised in Mākena, supported the project, testifying that it will help reduce demand in residential areas.
“As much as I don’t like all of the luxury development that’s going on in the Mākena area from Wailea on, times change and we have to adjust to the times,” she said. “I understand the luxury needs so we can keep our prices of our homes in our neighborhoods at a decent level.”
Maui native Bruce Uʻu of Pāʻia, field representative for the Maui Chapter of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, also backed the project and said local areas such as Pāʻia and Paukūkalo are being flooded with wealthy, offshore buyers.
“Out-of-state homebuyers are buying houses in my neighborhood with water rights — and they never have to come to you guys,” he testified. “Every day it’s happening, and we are being displaced. I’d rather them go Mākena, guys.”
Another Maui native, Junya Nakoa of Nāpili, argued that the commission should not be giving the green light to luxury homes, especially when the island has a severe shortage of affordable units.
“I don’t know how you guys can keep passing these projects, especially for people from the Mainland — not us locals,” he said. “They going be taking all the water. Then the county gotta ask the locals for stop using the water. Wake up, gangy.”
He pointed to a recent county-commissioned comprehensive affordable housing plan by Hawaiian Community Assets that did not mention the need for more luxury homes.
Twenty testifiers spoke, with eight people opposing approval of the project’s final environmental assessment due to socioeconomic, cultural and water concerns.
Other testifiers, such as construction industry workers and Mākena residents, supported the plan, saying planners have done due diligence, the project will secure long-term local jobs and beach parking will be improved.
During a presentation, Leilani Pulmano of Pacific Rim Land cited a 2019 housing planning study commissioned by Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation that said Maui County needs about 10,000 units across all income levels. Of those, nearly 3,000 units are needed for households earning more than 100% of area median income.
“As stated in the study, a mix of housing units are needed in the right locations for a functioning housing market,” she said. “And this is the right location for luxury residential housing as allowed by the Maui Island Plan and the community plan.”
Commissioner Kawika Freitas, the lone opposing vote, said he believes allowing luxury homes will exacerbate the housing crisis on Maui because the projects will drain local resources.
“I stand firm that this project is only going to make it worse for residents being able to afford a home,” he said.
With the 6-1 vote, commissioner Jerry Edlao motioned for approval and commissioner Mel Hipolito Jr. provided a second. Commissioners Ashley Lindsey and Dale Thompson were absent and excused.
“I think the applicant has done a good job addressing all of our concerns from previous meetings,” Edlao said ahead of the vote.