Wailea 670 / Honua‘ula asks Maui County Council to Amend Conditions of Zoning

From 2004 to early 2008 Maui County Council debated the potential Conditions of Zoning placed on Wailea 670/ Honua’ula project. The upscale 1400 unit development was proposed to be built around a private golf course. Eventually, it also promised to provide 700 units of affordable housing, with 250 units built first, within a few years, in an off site location. It also promised millions in funding to benefit public facilities.

On March 8, 2008, in a close 5 to 4 vote, Council members Pontanilla, Baisa, Molina, Victorino and Mateo, who supported the project, based their “yes “ vote on the 700 affordable homes and $43 million in public benefits the project offered and the 30 conditions of zoning that addressed the concerns of the community. (adopted by the Council in March 2008 as Ordinance 3554). Many of those promises have now changed. The promised 700 affordable units his now under 300 units, and the project seeks to change even more.

Council Members who opposed  the project in 2008, questioned whether the 30 Conditions of Zoning the Council was relying on to mitigate the lack of in depth information about the project, would survive to actually shape the project over its 20-year build-out.

Conditions change and there is no guarantee that conditions will be conducive to the build-out of this project by the time they get ready to build.“ South Maui representative Michelle Anderson warned in her closing statements. Her West Maui colleague, JoAnne Johnson added:

I do not have a crystal ball and he  (Honua’ula representative, Charlie Jencks) does not know what conditions they may ask for in the future that pertain to their specific section.

In February 2024, the landowners did propose amendments to a number of the original Conditions of Zoning in Ordinance 3554. Some amendments merely reflect changes in project design, but others change the fundamental agreement that Council members made with the landowners to mitigate concerns over lack of adequate information about the project and its impacts.

The Honua’ula project is also subject to a 2016 settlement agreement, between the County of Maui and Honua’ula Partners and Sierra Club Maui and Maui Unite.  Signed by all parties in October of 2016, the settlement provided that one condition of zoning, Condition 5, concerning 250 units of affordable housing planned to be constructed off-site, could be amended to allow the housing to be either on the 700-acre Honua’ula site or at an offsite location, as long as the units were constructed prior to the market-priced units, as had been originally promised to the Council.

The 2016 Settlement Agreement, however, reflected some of the concerns that Council members had expressed eight years earlier about hard debated conditions being altered once the project had its approvals. The Settlement included a small provision on page 30 that if the council were to approve  “removal or substantial amendment “ of any additional Conditions of Zoning beyond the agreed upon Condition 5, the settlement would provide for Honua’ula Partners (“HP”) to  “satisfy by the extent permitted by law..” 13 of the 30 conditions “in the form in which they are currently set forth in Ordinance 3554.” 

There was no public water supply available for the large project on arid land. Condition of Zoning 1 promised a private water system, built to public water system standards and provided that the system will be offered to Maui County to purchase, upon completion. Condition 1 was one of the 13 Conditions listed in the Settlement agreement signed by HP, The County of Maui, Sierra Club and Maui Unite that needed to be” satisfied… in current form.”

The current amendments proposed to Condition 1, appear to request that the water system not need to be constructed to County standards, and not be offered to the County for purchase as part of the public system upon completion.

Condition 1 was widely discussed and debated by the Council members.  It was meant to address the project’s uncertain water sources, which still are not completely known. Today’s Council members should take a hard look at what is proposed and determine if the County itself, who is a party to the settlement agreement, should be asking for important provisions of Condition 1 to remain as originally approved. A glance back to the minutes of the March 2008,  final day of Honua’ula project approvals at Maui County Council, makes that very clear

Council Chair Riki Hokama, who opposed the project, challenged his fellow Council members to exercise their authority for the benefit of all:

“we can pick and choose what is in the best interest of this County.” Hokama reminded his colleagues in his closing remarks. “I feel that the County and our community is not getting what it should out of this project. Obviously, you know my position regarding wastewater system, regarding water … and with this conditions of zoning, that is allowing private wastewater, private water. How do I go back and tell my residents on Lanai why they’re going to be paying higher water fees, higher sewage rates, because we have exempted out subdivisions that should be on County systems”.

Even Council member Victorino, who summed up his reasons for supporting the Honua’ula project referred to the importance of enforcing the adopted Conditions:

we have worked hard to put all these conditions in here to make it a project for which all of Maui County will be used as a template, will be demonstrated that it can be done right, smart growth.” Victorino said, but he added:  “Planning and all the various departments, whether it’s Water, whoever, to make sure that not only they follow through on it, but enforce our conditions. And that’s the whole purpose.”


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