Developers’ next steps for a proposed 752-unit affordable housing project in Waiehu will be to apply for the county’s fast-track process, according to a consultant for the project.
Genova Construction Development of California is looking to build 568 single-family units and 184 multifamily units on 158 acres of an undeveloped, 238-acre parcel of land mauka of Kahekili Highway. The Waiehu Residential Community project would also include 17,400 square feet of retail space and three parks totaling 6.3 acres, according to the project’s final environmental assessment, which was released Friday.
Brett Davis of Wailuku-based consultant Chris Hart and Partners said that next, “the application will be going through the 201H process,” a fast-track procedure that allows affordable housing projects to take a quicker path to approval with certain exemptions. The Maui County Council will have a set amount of time to review the project and make a decision on it.
The property site runs along Kahekili Highway between Wailuku Country Estates and Malaihi Street. It’s also bordered by vacant land owned by the Free Church of Tonga and the Ocean View Estates residential subdivision as well as Maui Economic Opportunity-owned land that will be developed as 100-percent affordable multifamily housing, according to the assessment.
The property was previously used for sugar cane cultivation and repurposed for macadamia nut production in the 1980s, according to the assessment. However, the land hasn’t been farmed for well over a decade, leaving the property overgrown with trees and dense tall grassland.
Oahu developer Sterling Kim had been planning to build the Hale Mua affordable housing project on the site but ran into funding issues during the Great Recession when the bank he’d received financing from needed to be bailed out, he wrote in a 2018 letter to the editor in The Maui News.
The property was foreclosed on in April 2011 after Kim defaulted on a $10.6 million loan from landowner Southwest 7.
Kim made a last-minute plea to the state Land Use Commission in 2018, saying he had obtained finances to reacquire the property. Sympathetic commissioners pointed out that because no housing had been built, they had to rule that there had been no substantial commencement of the project. They classified the property back to an agricultural district.
“This project is a better urban design than the previous project because we are maintaining the natural topography that runs in between the middle of the site,” Davis said Friday.
Davis said that after seeking county approval, the developers of the current proposed project will have to go to the Land Use Commission to request the change back from agricultural to urban.
He added that developers have met with the mayor, who suggested adding more units to the project.
“We did have a conversation about the possibility of exploring the option for more units,” Davis said. “We have not explored that as far as calculations or anything.”
Mayor Michael Victorino said Friday that he didn’t have a set number of additional units in mind, as it would depend on the capacity of the property.
“I’m looking for as many as I can get in the area, cause we need these units desperately,” he said.
Earlier this year, the county inked a deal with the developer of the Waikapu Country Town project to add more housing to the nearly 1,500-unit project in exchange for using the county’s wastewater system. If the Waiehu project were approved, Victorino said he would consider a similar trade-off of county-supported infrastructure for more housing. He said he supported the project so long as the housing was attainable for residents.
“I’d like to say if we can get enough workforce housing in there that our residents, our workforce can afford, then I’d like to say as big as possible, especially if we can get the Piihana extension built, then I think that would be a great area to start off,” he said. “So I want to work with them and see what we can get.”
Davis said he didn’t have a timeline for when the project would go before the council, as it depends when the application is submitted and the council is able to schedule it.
He also didn’t have an estimated cost or anticipated sales prices for the homes, pointing out that the council is currently in the process of redefining the county’s affordability guidelines.
The project would be developed in several phases, according to the environmental assessment. It’s projected to begin construction in 2024 and be completed in 2032.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.