For too long, the future of Mākena has been a giant unknown for Maui. The threat of development has loomed large, and the Maui Planning Commission’s vote in March to accept a “No Significant Impact” finding on ATC Makena Holdings’ plans for the South Maui region scared a lot of people. So much so that a coalition of three community groups filed suit in Maui’s Environmental Court in May to get that vote invalidated.
But today, things look a lot brighter. That’s because those community groups–Ho`oponopono O Mākena, Sierra Club Hawaii’s Maui group and Maui Tomorrow Foundation (all represented by attorney Lance Collins)–negotiated a settlement agreement with the developer. And this afternoon, the Maui Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the Special Management Area (SMA) use permit for the project, which now includes the conditions outlined in the settlement agreement.
“This settlement is a win-win because it protects the environment and cultural sites of Mākena, but also supports the needs of Maui’s local families,” said Adriane Raff Corwin, Coordinator of Sierra Club Maui Group, in a July 11 joint news release sent out by the three organizations that originally filed suit. “Our negotiations will result in at least 60 units of housing, affordable in perpetuity and priced at or below median income levels, being built on Mākena resort land. We have asked that first priority for these homes be given to families with historical ties to the Mākena area, giving kama`aina a chance to return to the land.”
Referred to as a “158-unit mixed use community” in the Planning Commission’s July 11 agenda, ATC Makena Holdings’ proposal called for “88 multi-family units (including 4 affordable rental units), 20 single-family cottages, 26 single-family custom lots, 10 transient vacation rental units, 14 condominium units, approximately 27,300 sq. ft. of commercial space” and various other infrastructure improvements. The reduced project will now have 134 units, said Maui Tomorrow Foundation Executive Director Albert Perez.
The joint news release outlines how the settlement agreement lessens the impact of the Makena development: “The agreement includes reducing density throughout the entire Mākena resort lands as well as makai parcels, preservation of on-street public beach parking around Makena Landing, affordable housing within the Mākena area, protection of cultural sites and historic mauka-makai trails, an independent cultural manager and the establishment and perpetual funding of a community benefit fund, among other provisions.”
The result, according to representatives of the three groups, is a new optimism concerning Makena.
“Our history of fighting for this special place goes back almost 40 years,” said Perez in the news release. “The first success of this effort was the creation of Mākena State Park at Oneloa (Big Beach). Now the future of Mākena, which has been unclear for decades, has a measure of certainty. As a community, we will need to remain vigilant, but this is a start.”
In a phone call a few minutes after the vote, activist and former Planning Commissioner Dick Mayer, who has spent the last six years monitoring the Makena development project, agreed. “It’s a major, major change in how things have been done in the past,” he said.
Photo of Makena Landing: Forest & Kim Starr