Updated: September 30, 2022
Saying they’re for affordable housing — just not in this area — at least a dozen opponents to proposed Hale Waipu’ilani 100% workforce project in Kīhei pointed to flooding and traffic concerns Monday during the Maui County Council’s Affordable Housing Committee meeting.
However, a handful of other residents, including the leader of Maui’s affordable housing plan, said the 28-unit affordable project is sorely needed, even if the neighbors don’t want it in their backyards.
Another 400 Maui residents signed a petition by Kahului-based Alaula Builders, saying the project should be built, according to county documents.
The meeting Monday was recessed until 9 a.m. June 13.
Developed by Alaula Builders, Hale Waipu’ilani is seeking the county’s fast-track affordable housing process to create 28 for-sale units on 1.53 acres at 16 E. Waipu’ilani Road, an area that’s surrounded by residential properties.
Under the county’s 2.97 residential workforce housing policy, developers may request exemptions or modifications to county code in order to build 100% affordable projects quickly.
After receiving the application, council has 60 days to decide the project’s fate.
Hale Waipu’ilani’s proposed homes range from one bedroom, one bathroom at 430 square feet to three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms at 1,360 square feet.
Buildings would be on post-and-pier foundations and stormwater retention areas would be created under and around the buildings. Also, 59 parking spots would be included.
Eight units would go toward 80% to 100% of the Area Median Income, 14 units would be for 100% to 120% AMI and six units would be sold to 120% to 140% AMI.
Developers during the meeting Tuesday said they want affordable housing, but if it doesn’t go through, they may have to look at alternatives. One option would create four lots and up to 12 market-rate homes there, which would need governmental review but not public input.
“With this plan there will be no community outreach, no council approvals would be required, no Planning Commission approval and no affordable housing,” said Vince Bagoyo, lead project consultant.
Many opponents against the project said during the meeting Monday that they live near the proposed project site and it suffers from severe flooding.
“I’m opposed to this project because of how it infringes on my privacy, but I don’t expect that to move you,” neighbor Lloyd Johnson said. “I’ve already heard one person say that we’re just a bunch of NIMBYs, Not In My Backyard, but there’s much more to it than that.”
“This site is subject to frequent flooding, predictably the property owners there will have to trudge ankle deep water from home to car for several days following seasonal heavy rains,” he added.
Mike Moran, Kīhei Community Association president, said he supports the developers and other projects they do, but not this one because of the flood-riddled location.
“This one is just not a good fit,” he said.
Vernon Kalanikau said the area is part of a wetland, water builds up on the property and there are waterways that run below the site.
“You go two feet on that proposed project, you’ll hit water, and we all know that place floods,” he said.
In response to a committee question about those concerns, Doyle Betsill, Alaula Builder president, said he built a subdivision next to this project 10 to 15 years ago.
“As you know we’re surrounded by homes on all four sides . . . there are some challenges with building in this area, but it is all solved by normal construction techniques,” he said.
“So groundwater in a nutshell is not an issue for us as far as the construction’s concerned,” Betsill added.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch in a 2021 letter to the applicant determined that the project site does not contain waters of the U.S., including wetlands or navigable waters of the U.S., defined by its rules.
Others testified in support of the project, including Jeff Gilbreath of Hawaiian Community Assets, which was commissioned by the council to create the Maui County Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan submitted to council in 2021.
He said the project was vetted and part of the plan’s priority projects list.
“It’s important to have conversation with community; you’re obviously going to have weigh concerns of traffic and the priorities of existing homeowners, with the real need of families needing some place to live on island,” he said. “And you will continue to hear affordable housing is great, just not in my backyard.”
Alaula Builders is also working on 100% workforce housing projects Kuikahi Village in Wailuku and Hale Kaiola in North Kihei. Forty Maui families were selected during a lottery in March for Hale Kaiola, which is slated to open in September.