6/29/17 Many questions are answered and more information offered in two articles in Maui News- SEE BELOW!
UPDATE This is a new one for us. Several hours after obtaining the go ahead from the County Planning Commission on their project, we have been advised National Land Company, LLC decided to withdraw the project from proceeding. No we have no information on what prompted this decision, and we heard nothing at the meeting that offered any clue that they had any intent but to proceed
KCA testified at the County Planning Commission this morning on item C-2 South Maui Gardens Development’s request for a change of zoning (CoZ), conditional use (CU) permit, and Special Management Area (SMA) Permit to proceed with their project. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the CoZ, and 5-2 to approve the CU. The SMA is deferred until the project goes to County Council and returns to this commission.
The KCA Design Review Committee reviewed the project back in 2015, almost two years ago, SEE
The meeting opened with an announcement by Chair Duvauchelle that the standard “early testimony” on any and all agenda items – available so members of public with obligations could present and then depart – would not be allowed today.
While this had no effect on us, we observed two guys then depart, including former Council Member and current Mayor’s assistant Mike Molina.
The room was filled with about 30 guys, as individuals ebbed and flowed depending on which item was addressed. Two nearby residents (owners of apartments in the Island Surf building next door) testified that they had too little information on the project, but both indicated that added traffic was a major concern. We did too.
We find it a ludicrous system for the county to continuously state a single project does not have a major effect on vehicle traffic, while ignoring the efforts of our community to communicate on the issue, and ignoring the cumulative effect of adding multiple projects.
Two professional reports in the Maui News.
After planning panel gives its initial OK, developer walks away
South Maui project would have had nine homes plus commercial areas across 6 acres
WAILUKU — The owner of the South Maui Gardens Nursery is withdrawing his application for a commercial and residential development in Kihei, a surprise move after the project got the early go-ahead from the Maui Planning Commission Tuesday.
Kihei resident Mike Farina confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he would no longer pursue the project, but he declined to comment on the reasons behind his decision. Earlier in the day, the commission had voted to recommend changes in zoning and a conditional permit for the project, which was supposed to advance to the Maui County Council for review.
“I thought the project was fine,” Planning Director Will Spence said Tuesday. “It followed the community plan. . . . The commission voted for approval. I don’t know why they wouldn’t go through with it.”
Project consultants had to answer a slew of questions from commissioners, but in the end, the project received fairly widespread approval — the vote was 7-0 in favor of changes in zoning and 5-2 in favor of the conditional permit.
Farina’s vision was to redesign the 6-acre site of the South Maui Gardens Nursery, which is located mauka of South Kihei Road between Auhana Road and Alahele Place. Plans called for six single-story commercial buildings, nine single-family homes with a pool and spa, parking lots, landscaping and road improvements. The nursery would have continued to operate on a smaller scale.
The whole project would have cost more than $15 million, said Farina, who lives on the site and applied under his business Nation Land Co.
Mike Moran, president of the Kihei Community Association, said he was “flabbergasted” to hear Farina was bowing out. He said Farina first brought the proposal to the association two years ago.
“I’m shocked,” Moran said. “I’m thinking, what in the world would have changed their mind at this point after getting the OK today? . . . I didn’t hear anything from anybody that would’ve made them pull out.”
Commissioners liked the open design of the project; it only used 15 percent of the permitted density for that area, architect August Percha pointed out. Two residents at the nearby Island Surf condominiums expressed concerns about traffic, noise and drainage problems, but one said she simply wanted more information.
Some commissioners were concerned about the changes in zoning. The project would have kept one parcel residential and made the other two commercial. However, Spence said that commercial zoning is already mapped out in the Kihei-Makena Community Plan.
“Community plans show uses already there and also show what uses could be there in the future,”Spence said. “People say we don’t implement our plans. That’s part of implementing the plans, is getting the property zoned correctly.”
Usually the Kihei Community Association opposes the switch from residential to commercial, but this project was different, Moran added.
“Because generally when we get hit with that, it’s vacant land,” he explained. “But with this one, they were going to build some residential. And, it’s already an existing business. It’s not like you’re taking vacant land. It’s their land already. They’ve been a running a business for years. It seemed reasonable.”
But commissioner Keaka Robinson would have liked to see more homes. Robinson said he thought “they’re purposely restricting the amount of homes to shy away from the affordable housing component.” County code requires affordable housing in any project with at least 10 market-rate units.
Percha said after the meeting that Farina and consultants did limit the design to nine homes because they weren’t prepared to take on an affordable housing project. Percha said he thought the project would have been a benefit to the community. Plans had included making one building into a deli/bakery and another into a diner.
“We call this our plantation district,” Percha said. “It’s meant to be a walking, bike riding, walk-your-dog kind of atmosphere.”
If the council had approved the zoning changes, Farina would have had to return to the commission to request a special management area permit.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time, uncertainty caused developer to bow out of project
Farina spoke on the record Wednesday after initially declining to comment on his reasons Tuesday evening.
“We felt it was better to just keep growing our nursery than having to go through another few years of zoning changes before we can even get started,” Farina said. “We’ve already invested four years, and we feel that if we have to invest another year or two, the costs are just getting horrendous.”
Farina had planned to redesign the South Maui Gardens nursery plot in Kihei as soon as he purchased it in 2013. His vision included six single-story commercial buildings, nine single-family homes with a pool and spa, and space for the nursery. Farina had hoped to attract small local businesses and create a space where people could “sit under the nursery trees and enjoy their lunch in the afternoon and get off the hot asphalt.”
He also explained that he wanted to scale back the size of the Kihei nursery while continuing to operate a 160,000-square-foot growing facility Upcountry. South Maui Gardens employs 22 people and services more than 100 accounts on island, including hotels and shopping malls.
The planning commission supported the project Tuesday, voting 7-0 in favor of changing zoning in two of the parcels from residential to commercial and 5-2 in favor of a conditional permit. The project would have advanced to the council before returning to the commission for a special management area permit.
Given the long road ahead, Farina decided it wasn’t a chance he wanted to take.
“These days it’s very difficult to make financial decisions when it takes several years to get answers,” said Farina, who’s already invested more than $300,000 in the project.
He also wasn’t sure he’d get the commission’s support the next time around. On Tuesday, some commissioners said they wanted to see more housing in the project. They also wondered why Farina had placed parking stalls meant for the businesses in the residential lot.
Farina said if he moved the stalls, he wouldn’t be able to operate the nursery. In the end, “having to make a decision between additional parking or the nursery” was another factor in pulling out of the project.
“I don’t think that they were asking him to choose,” commission Chairwoman Sandra Duvauchelle said Wednesday. “I think that we would always like to see each parcel be designed to be able to handle its own parking. . . . I think it was just a suggestion.”
Duvauchelle said she “thought it was actually a really nice project” and was surprised that Farina had backed out after getting the votes from the commission. As for the lengthy and costly process that every project must go through, Duvauchelle acknowledged “there’s always room for improvement.”
“Again, I think sometimes it deters projects that maybe shouldn’t get built, and it also ferrets out a lot of the questions on the ones that are being built,” she said. “I think it’s a balancing act.”
Farina said he still believes in his project and thinks it’s needed in Kihei.
“At this point, we’re deciding our options,” he said.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.