Housing master plan includes affordable homes

Drive the stretch of Kapule Highway from Hanama‘ulu to the courthouse, and there’s not a lot to look at mauka of the road.

Pending county approval of final plans for the area, that’s about to change.

Replacing fields of grass in the Hanama‘ulu triangle will be a mix of commercial and residential buildings. Likewise, the open space south of Ahukini Road between the courthouse and the existing subdivisions will eventually be developed into homes and shops.

For 15 years Grove Farm Co. has been planning a two-part mixed-use community in the Lihu‘e and Hanama‘ulu areas. The master plan got underway in earnest in 1993, according to Marissa Sandblom, a Grove Farm vice president; however, the Hanama‘ulu triangle development has been in the works since 1982.

What’s different about this project is its emphasis on smart growth and its target audience of current Kaua‘i residents, says Mike Tressler, a Grove Farm vice president.

“We’re focused on Kaua‘i-local people,” Tressler said. “That is our market.”

The project, unlike many started in the development boom of late, seeks to create a walkable community for kama‘aina.

Tressler said the development is also aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, the highest standard for “green” building and design.

The Lihu‘e-Hanama‘ulu master plan includes the development of more than 180 acres in two separate parcels.

In Lihu‘e, Grove Farm will develop about 134 acres for residential and commercial use. Called Wailani, the project is located south of Ahukini Road extending from the existing Molokoa subdivision toward the county courthouse.

According to Tressler, the residential portion, totaling about 52 acres, will be developed before the commercial. He hopes the final subdivisions will be completed by the third or fourth quarter of next year.

On the commercial end of Wailani, the plans include a central space for community events, a theater, dining, retail, an assisted-living facility, a child care center, supermarket and a business traveler hotel. There will also be apartments above the shops.

“We’re developing a new town center,” Tressler said.

The Hanama‘ulu parcel, called Kohea Loa, was sold to D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes LLC but remains part of the master plan.

It is comprised of 54 acres in the Hanama‘ulu Triangle, bordered by Kapule and Kuhio highways, and will include about 440 homes.

Tressler said D.R. Horton’s goal is to break ground on Kohea Loa by the end of the year.

Before Wailani or Kohea Loa can begin construction, the master infrastructure plans require approval.

In addition, an affordable housing agreement between the county and Grove Farm must be signed.

A finalized draft agreement went before the County Council yesterday and was approved unanimously.

The agreement adheres to the county’s new housing policy, which passed in December 2007 and takes effect on June 10.

The new policy requires 30 percent workforce housing for any residential development, unlike the 15 percent required by the policy that expires in two weeks. However, the new guidelines afford developers more ways to reduce their obligation, including credits for building “green” or for providing single-family homes, which are in high demand.

The County Council in committee meetings last week weighed in on the agreement as described by Ken Rainforth, director of the county’s Housing Agency.

Rainforth said the only area of divergence from the new policy is the matrix used to calculate the number of affordable units. The total units will remain the same, but the breakdown among median household income will differ.

Tressler said the size of the project and its time frame preclude an exact calculation of affordable units at this early stage of the process. The matrix will provide a way to better calculate the requirements while still accounting for the goals of the housing policy, he said.

“By no means does it give (Grove Farm) an advantage by way of units,” Tressler said. “… The tell-all is that Ken supports it.”

Forty percent of the total affordable housing requirement will be absorbed by Kohea Loa, thus reducing the amount of affordable homes to be built on the Wailani parcel.

Because of the different entities involved in the master project, Councilman Jay Furfaro expressed concern last week that the developers and sub-developers understand their piece of the puzzle and how it fits into the larger requirement.

Rainforth said he’s discussed this at length and Grove Farm will be the point of contact for the county.

In addition, the affordable units must be developed before or concurrently with the market units.

• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or bjones@kauaipubco.com

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