Because the Kapalua Resort doesn’t make enough money or cater to the whims of enough rich people, the Maui Land and Pineapple Company is going to make it bigger. Nearly a thousand acres bigger, in fact.
On July 13, 2005, the Maui County Land Use Committee began discussing the the proposed zoning change that would make possible the company’s 925-acre luxury resort called Kapalua Mauka. The committee also made a site inspection, though it took no action on the plan.
Kapalua Mauka is a very big deal. It will include 690 single- and multi-family homes—with lots starting at $500,000 and easily surpassing $1 million—and expand the Kapalua Village Golf Course. ML&P documents filed with the state Land Use Commission call the project “a master-planned upscale resort residential, rural residential, and recreational community.”
The project’s purpose is to meet the estimated demand for “high-end neighbor island properties.” Because ML&P assumes few of Kapalua Mauka’s projected thousands of new residents will live year-round in the new estates and mansions, the company figures that the project will bring just 17 additional school-age children to the Westside.
According to The Maui News account of the meeting that ran July 15, 2005, the committee mostly concerned itself with the 173 affordable housing units ML&P has agreed to build to secure passage— units that will, in fact, sit nowhere near Kapalua Mauka. Just one person spoke in opposition, and he was worried about the current state of development outpacing the construction of new infrastructure.
In fact, there’s plenty about Kapalua Mauka that should cause concern. By far the most controversial aspect is what local real estate observers refer to as “the land swap.” In October, 2003, ML&P officials negotiated a deal with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to complete Kapalua Mauka by trading their 1.4-acre industrial Mill Town Center in Waipahu on Oahu for a whopping 226 acres of hilly Kapalua they had been leasing to grow pineapple.
Even more amazing were the company’s land appraisals, which showed a pretty even swap—Mill Town’s value came in at $1.5 million while the Kapalua land rated $1.6 million.
You read that right: $1.6 million for 226 acres of beautiful, prime, virgin Kapalua land. That pencils out to about $7,079.65 per acre—arguably the best Hawai’i land deal in the last century. Sure, the land is a long strip with a gulch running through it, but it’s in KAPALUA, home of the Mercedes Championship, the Ritz-Carlton and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre’s vacation home. Needless to say, one state official immediately cried foul.
Saying the appraisals undervalued the Kapalua land by not taking into account Maui Land’s development plans, state Representative Alex Sonson (D, Pearl City-Waipahu) said the company was getting a “much better” deal than the state.
Other issues raise eyebrows, if not questions. As with all big developments, there’s the matter of water. Maui is still considered drought country, and in addition to big Westside projects like the company’s Puluhua community and Amfac’s Ka’anapali 2020, Maui Land estimates that at build-out Kapalua Mauka will suck between 250,000 and 350,000 gallons of water each day from nearby aquifers, the Honokohau Stream—currently used by Hawaiian taro farmers—and the Napili Stream.
Almost as an after thought is the fact that Kapalua Mauka residents will be very far from proper hospital care.
“Emergency medical services to the Property are provided from the Maui Memorial Medical Center in Kahului, located approximately 25 to 35 miles away,” reads the LUC’s Findings of Fact on Kapalua Mauka, published June 24, 2004. “[This] is outside the time recommended for emergency treatment.”
Perhaps this isn’t an issue at all. Currently, all Kapalua residents and guests live such a distance from the Maui Memorial ER, and they don’t seem to be complaining. And as ML&P officials point out, the Ka’anapali 2020 project includes a new West Maui hospital and emergency room.
In any case, Maui Land has no problem with it, and in the end that may be all that matters. MTW