Council members change course on project amid resident opposition

The Maui County Council on Monday ultimately decided to pull the plug on a 28-unit affordable housing project in Kihei after hearing dozens testify against the development, citing issues that included its location, flooding, and impacts on traffic and the environment.

The council voted 6-3 to Disapprove the Hale Waipu’ilani housing project at 16 Waipu’ilani Road in Kihei.

Affordable Housing Committee Chair, Gabe Johnson said:  “Although this project would provide 28 residential workforce housing units, I’m hearing loud and clear from the testifiers about the ongoing concerns, particularly the frequent flooding and drainage issues, and the related health, safety, and monetary implications,” said Johnson, who chairs the Affordable Housing Committee but was excused on the day of the committee vote. “I believe developers also heard this concern from the beginning and decided to ignore the voice of the community and carry on regardless.”  He said that as the chair of the committee, he “wholeheartedly” supports more affordable housing, and so does the council. But, he added, “as they say in the real estate world, location, location, location.”

You can see the County Meeting on Video here (Vote Timestamp 3:02:50):


1:18:00 Testimony from Shekainah Cantere, opposing CR 22-61:  “I have been a resident In Kihei since I was 5 years old. I taught Hawaiian studies at Kamalii Elementary for 4 years. I oppose this project because this property of located in a FEMA flood zone. I grew up on the makai side of where this housing project is. I can personally share with you that growing up on Ewa place, which is right by Maui Sunset, about a ten-minute walk from the project.  My brothers and I would have to barricade our yard so our Hale would not get flooded. Almost every heavy rainfall my neighbors the Moody’s, right across from us do get flooded, inside their house. As children my brothers and I would kayak in our flooded street, that is how deep the water gets. This proposed spot is in a wetland. And it is also a safety hazard due to the surrounding roads Having no curbs sidewalks or shoulders.  This project will cause more congestion in this area and affect the neighborhood’s way of life by adding unnecessary stress of being overpopulated. There are also safety concerns when emergencies and evacuations happen. I’ve heard other people talk about a land swap, and I approve of this idea so we can conserve this site “as is”. And I would like to encourage all of you here and those listening today to make every decision not only what is needed now, but also on what’s going to be needed for our future Generations. I really appreciate all of your time Mahalo Nui”.

Testimony from Shekainah Cantere opposing CR 22-61

1:20:30 Robin Knox, oppose CR 22-61:  “My name is Robin Knox and I’m speaking on behalf of myself. This area where this housing project is, is already flooding because of the development on top of the wetlands and the floodplain. Each additional development over time makes it worse and negatively impacts all the homes that are already there. There’s a high probability that homes built at this site will flood even worse than the flooding that already exists. Regarding the purchase of expensive flood insurance, there is no guarantee that the developer can do what he says, to get that requirement waived. Furthermore, even if flood insurance is required for financing there is no guarantee that it would be available if the risk gets too high because insurance companies don’t want to insure a high risk. The idea of a land swap with the county would be a solution to that situation because it not only puts families out of harm’s way, It gives the county room for actual green infrastructure to address the flooding. To protect the homeowners and move the homes out of the area that is sure to be affected by climate change, sea level rise, groundwater levels rising, and increasingly intense storms that cause flooding. I have family members and friends that have had to be rescued from floods and have lost everything from flood damage. I would never want to put anyone else at risk from that happening. Thank you.”

1:33:20 Cody Tuivaiti  oppose CR 22-61: “My Name is Cody Nemet Tuivaiti, I am a lifelong resident of Kula Kai, a member of the Aha Moku Council, Steward of Hui ‘Āinakūko’a O Waiohuli Kai, a restoration project in the vicinity of this development. “HE WAʻA HE MOKU, HE MOKU HE WAʻA”, And island is a canoe, a canoe is an island”, This is a very famous ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, that speaks to the difference between quantity and as to the quality of life. As a steward and advocate for restoration, it is vital that our impact to our environment are held to the highest regard. This involves water quality, marine health, cultural awareness, and mitigation measures in terms of sea level rise, run off, and a storm surge. As we have seen recently, storm surge is very real, so is flooding and runoff. I am worried because there is more emphasis on new growth and less on the existing well-being of our community and aina. I would like to entertain the idea of this land being turned to conservation. And a land swap as was mentioned to me as a possibility. Being that this area is already surrounded by homes, Conservation land is exactly what this area needs. Not just for the environment but for the quality of life in an existing community. As much as we need good homes, we need good quality of life. What is the sense if we crammed everybody together, if everyone is miserable. More traffic, more flooding, loss of environment, loss of morality in our local communities, we become strangers in our own town. As a member of aha moku council, I have made it a mission to represent core values when it comes to stewardship of such conservation areas. A place that is impactful to our running waterways, our endemic and native plants, the continuation of our healthy hydrology, that permeates through our oceans. Overall a better quality of life. I asked that we revisit other options proposed and remember that while we look to the future for our much-needed affordable housing, that there are already thousands of homes there that also need to be acknowledged. It’s Pono planning. And as someone who grew up his entire life in Kula Kai I can tell you first-hand that we are experiencing too many changes too quickly, and we have been impacted. We are beginning to become strangers in our own home, we have lost so many of those core values that we grew up with due to the heavy influx of misguided planning. One more thing, planning is much more than just meeting the requirements, it is setting standards. Mahalo”.