WAILUKU – A&B Properties has released for public review a draft environmental impact statement for Wai’ale, a master-planned community on about 545 acres in Central Maui.
While the project raises the prospect of the construction of more than 2,000 homes in one of Maui’s fastest-growing regions, the development also faces some steep challenges, particularly in gaining access to drinking water and sewage treatment.
A&B Vice President Grant Chun said the project’s tentative design was “informed by the standards and goals of the Maui Island Plan,” which is pending review by the Maui County Council.
The planning and entitlement process is expected to take “many years,” Chun said Monday. Project planners are at the start of working with state officials on the project’s environmental review before seeking a district boundary amendment, he said.
The property is on either side of East Waiko Road, with Kuihelani Highway to the east and Honoapiilani Highway and Waikapu to the west. It is bordered on the north by Maui Lani’s Legends and Traditions subdivisions and the Waikapu Stream to the south.
Plans call for building 2,550 single- and multifamily homes, with land set aside for commercial and retail space, offices, civic and other public facilities, including an 18-acre middle school, a community center, regional and neighborhood parks, and a possible wastewater treatment plant. Now, the land is fallow sugar cane fields, a plant nursery, portions of a cattle feed lot, sand stockpiles and vacant land, according to the project’s draft environmental impact statement.
As part of a requirement for the second phase of A&B’s Maui Business Park, 50 acres of the project will be provided to Maui County – 40 acres for affordable housing, 7 acres for a community center and 3 acres for a neighborhood park.
The affordable housing, estimated to be about 300 single- and multifamily units, would be in two separate parcels centrally located in the project district. The housing would be within walking and biking distance of the proposed Wai’ale regional park, the Maui Lani regional park, the proposed middle school and a community center.
The project also would feature cultural preserve areas dedicated to the preservation of archaeological features and lithified sand dunes.
The draft environmental study points to water and wastewater as being “unresolved issues” for the project.
“Several potential drinking water source opportunities to serve Wai’ale are being considered,” the study says. “These include a surface water treatment facility and new well sources in the Central Maui region. The primary focus has been the development of a surface water treatment facility utilizing water from Maui’s ditch system.”
A&B acknowledges that the proposed water treatment facility “requires further discussion, review and approvals by various governmental agencies in order to proceed.”
“Also, the establishment of interim in-flow stream standards for the four streams which make up the Na Wai Eha, including Waihee Stream, will need to be resolved,” it says.
It notes that in June 2010, the state Commission on Water Resource Management rendered its decision for Na Wai Eha, setting interim in-stream flow standards for Iao, Waihee, Waiehu and Waikapu streams. However, that decision has been challenged and remains pending in court.
The developer also is exploring other drinking water sources, including new wells in Central Maui. A test well drilled in the northeastern part of the property showed some promise, with a pump test indicating good water quality and capacity, the draft document reports. As a result, two wells were built within the property – Wai’ale well Nos. 1 and 2, both within the Kahului aquifer. The wells demonstrate the potential for development of quality drinking water in Central Maui, the developers said.
For sewage treatment, the county has told the developers there is probably not enough capacity at the Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility to even begin accommodating wastewater generated by the Wai’ale project.
“Treatment capacity is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and they already have multiple requests for capacity allocation,” the draft document says.
The Wai’ale developers are considering an on-site wastewater facility for use by the development only, or sending the sewage to the Kahului plant, if there is capacity available or if there’s future expansion of the facility.
Currently, the project has agricultural designations – in county zoning and community plan and in the state land use district. The property is not within the special management area.
To move ahead, the project needs to complete an environmental impact statement and have it approved by the state Land Use Commission. It also must get a state land use district boundary amendment, a community plan amendment and a change of zoning from the Maui County Council.
The environmental impact statement is expected to be completed this year, and A&B plans to seek a district boundary amendment from the Land Use Commission in late 2012, followed by county approvals for a community plan amendment and project district phases through about 2014. Development of the entire project could take approximately 10 years.
The preliminary cost estimate of the project is $273 million in 2010 dollars. On- and off-site improvements include new roads, intersection improvements, traffic signals, drinking and nondrinking water systems, wastewater and drainage systems as well as electrical and communications systems.
Public comments on the draft environmental review are due by July 22.