Wailuku Town is a funky place. If there’s one thing that Maui Redevelopment Agency members, testifying individuals of the public, and county planners can agree on, it’s that. From the mash-up of architectural styles, to the irregularly sized lots, to buildings both modern and decades old – it’s undeniable: This little town’s got character.
Another maxim arose during the Sep. 27 meeting of the MRA: Change and population growth are inevitable. Put the two premises together, and the stage is set for a battle over the future of an iconic town.
On Sep. 27, the MRA discussed draft zoning changes to the Wailuku Redevelopment Area within the agency’s jurisdiction, which roughly extends from Central Ave. to High St. and Wells St. to Mokuhau St. in Wailuku. Most significantly, the changes included increases to maximum building height and stories.
For “Block Face A Development Standards” which includes lots fronting Main, Church, and High Streets, building height is proposed to be increased to 82 feet or six stories, from current standards which range from 30 to 60 feet, or two to four stories. For Block B, including Market St., E Vineyard, Alahee, and Ulei Streets, the proposed maximum height is 46 feet, or three stories. Current Block B standards range from two stories to three stories. Under the proposal, Block C Standards, including W Vineyard St., Wells St. up to Konahau Ln., and Central Ave., would increase maximum height to 58 feet or four stories from the current 45 feet or three story limits.
Other changes to building setbacks and minimum lot sizes are also proposed.
“The rationale for us making some adjustments to the height were thinking through what are the needs for area residents,” said MRA project manager Erin Wade. “Heights and building setbacks invite the type of uses and development that the zoning code encourages,” she added.
But what exactly those “needs for area residents” are has proved a contentious subject. While testifiers at the meeting supported increased housing, there was also an expressed concern about taller buildings and development changing Wailuku’s character. And, while the MRA recognized housing as a prime resident concern, landowners in the area have told MauiTime that the development of business hotels remains a consideration (one mentioned affordable apartment rentals are not as feasible as a hotel).
MRA commissioners adjourned the meeting with no action on the MRA zoning code update, saying that a need for further input is necessary. A workshop will be planned for the future, commissioners said.
Image by Peter Liu