High-powered developer, landowner and Akaku public access cable mischief-maker Everett Dowling is one Maui Planning Commission hearing away from converting 11 acres of Makena wilderness into luxury condos for the super rich. If all goes well, the Maui Planning Commission will soon approve Dowling’s plans to put 71 two-, three- and four-bedroom condo units between Pu’u Olai and the Makena Golf Course’s 15th fairway.
Dowling, whose motto is “Building in balance,” bought the 11 acres from Makena Resort a few years ago. Though not part of the resort’s big expansion plans, Dowling’s proposed condos will fit nicely into an area rapidly changing from dense, wild forests into a second Wailea of immaculate golf courses and hotels.
According to the Planning Department’s project staff report, construction will take 30 months and cost Dowling about $137 million. Given the multi-million dollar price tags on each of the units, Dowling should make about twice that when it’s done.
While there’s still one hearing left, Dowling will undoubtedly get his approval. At its Sept. 27, 2005 hearing, the Planning Commission shot down an attempt by the slow growth citizens group Maui Tomorrow to intervene because it was five days late in filing its petition.
Other agencies were far more supportive of Dowling’s plans. Asked to comment on the project, the state Department of Education (DOE) offered little more than a letter of recommendation for Dowling.
“We would like to note, however, that the applicant, Dowling Company, has been extremely supportive of Maui public schools and education in general, as evidenced by a strong track record of education initiatives,” DOE assistant superintendent Rae M. Loui wrote to the county planning department on July 11, 2005. “Dowling Company has consistently supported Kamali’i Elementary School, which the company built as the first DOE turnkey project on Maui, through funding donations and program and facility upgrades.”
Indeed, Loui was so supportive of Dowling’s past contributions that it’s nearly impossible not to wonder about Dowling’s motivation for such acts of philanthropy as the $150,000 he gave Kamali’i Elementary back in August, which earned him a story in The Maui News on Aug. 18, 2005. Was he simply giving back to the community? Or was he looking for allies in his upcoming Makena fight?
Despite Dowling’s recent high-profile Hawaiian Homelands developments, the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs has considerable problems with the Makena plans. In fact, the agency wants the whole approval process stopped temporarily so a new, comprehensive archaeological survey can take place. According to the Planning Department’s project report filed for the Sept. 27, 2005 Maui Planning Commission hearing, it’s unknown how much time such an assessment would take or what effect it would have on the project.
OHA pulled no punches in its official comments on Dowling’s plans and the whole issue of building at Makena in general.
“The rate and scale of development in the Makena area has increased steadily in recent years,” OHA Administrator Clyde W. Namu’o wrote the county Planning Department on June 15, 2005. “Unfortunately, this increase has not met the housing needs for working class families. To the contrary, local and native Hawaiian families have often had to sell their land due to high property taxes.
“This type of rapid development continues to disenfranchise native Hawaiians,” Namu’o continued. “The needs of local residents and developers are not in balance at the present time. Impacts on the natural resources and infrastructure of the region have been felt for years.” MTW