After nearly 20 years, it looks like the Wailea 670 project may finally get a hearing before the Maui County Council. Well, the Maui County Council Land Use Committee, to be exact. Same members as the council, but they focus on planning matters. Anyway, the important thing is that we won’t have to listen to any more whining from Charlie Jencks that he’s been denied a hearing for his massive South Maui proposed development.
“I’m still waiting for my meeting,” said Jencks—who represents Cargill Group, Lehman Brothers, Woodbridge Capital and the other Wailea 670 investors—at the Kihei Community Association back in March. To be sure, Wailea 670 has been on the council agenda at least since 1992, when the Maui County Planning Commission approved Jencks’ rezoning request, but big projects that convert 670 acres of hitherto undeveloped land into 1,400 homes ought to go rather slow.
Then again, Jencks is paid to push things. Jencks is the president of the Maui Contractors Association, a construction industry lobbying group. Jencks, as a former Maui County public works director, also exemplifies the “revolving door” that allows public officials to profit handsomely from their previous public sector connections and expertise by walking into far more lucrative corporate jobs.
A self-styled “strong supporter of Education,” Jencks helped out his good friend and fellow developer Everett Dowling last year in his quest to strip the Akaku public access cable channel of a third of its state funding, saying the money should instead go to the state Department of Education. Ironically, at the same time Jencks was pleading with the state Senate to slash Akaku’s budget he and a handful of other Dowling cronies were fighting for seats on the station’s board of directors. That action threw the station that prides itself on running gavel-to-gavel coverage of local planning hearings into chaos and the courts, where it remains to this day.
In statements meant for public consumption, Jencks always spins Wailea 670 as “affordable” and community-friendly. Jencks insists the landowners scrapped the project’s original requirement that gates wall off the entire community in the face of public outcry, though individual property owners will still have the option of gating their homes, much as they do in Kapalua.
Indeed, developers have taken to calling the whole thing “Honua’ula,” which they say means “red earth” (I’ve seen it translated as “dark sugar cane.”) Anyway, it’s an unmistakable attempt to get people thinking of the 1,400-home project as being environmentally friendly.
Material meant for more corporate audiences have a remarkably different feel. One statement, placed on the website for the Honolulu-based Hawaiiana Group—one of Wailea 670’s corporate investors—brings to mind thoughts of unsurpassed wealth and luxury: “The development, to be a community of estates, villas and luxury multi-family units, will include a private country-club and world class golf course, and promises to be Maui’s premium upscale community in coming years.”
Premium, affordable, what’s the difference? Sounds like a good first question for Jencks from the committee members. MTW