A rezoning and application for a Waikoloa affordable housing project with a past that a planning consultant called “funky” and a councilman called “goofy” were withdrawn Tuesday from the County Council Planning Committee for a redo.
The Pua Melia project, with baggage that includes allegations of the government reneging on its promises, county employee firings, a questionable land transfer and an FBI investigation, returns to the drawing board with commitments from the county to help make it right.
Kohala Councilman Tim Richards said he’s been working with the applicant and the Planning Department and he thinks they’ve come up with a plan to move forward, but it will take a new application to do so. He asked that Bills 197 and 198 be withdrawn.
“I have a commitment from planning … resolving some of the issues,” Richards said. “Its a goofy one. There are a lot of things to attend to and we made a lot of progress so far.”
Developer Waikoloa Highlands Inc. transferred the land to a nonprofit, Plumeria at Waikoloa, to satisfy affordable housing requirements. But Plumeria in 2018 sold the land for a profit to Pua Melia developer Danny Julkowski, a Minnesota resident.
The state Land Use Commission about that same time reverted the more than 700 Waikoloa Highlands from rural district to an agricultural land classification after determining that the developer of the planned 398-lot residential subdivision did not substantially get the project off the ground.
The 11.7-acre Pua Melia property is located south of Waikoloa Road, approximately one-third mile east of the intersection of Pua Melia Street and Waikoloa Road, across from Waikoloa Stables. Developers are seeking a state land use boundary amendment change from agricultural to urban and a change of zone from open, residential and agriculture to village commercial.
The affordable housing development will consist of 36 units in seven quad-plex and four duplex buildings. Of those, 60% to 80% will be affordable to households with annual incomes at or below 140% of median income, or $87,373 based on a 2019 income of $62,409 estimated by the Census Bureau. There will also be commercial development.
The Leeward Planning Commission gave the project a negative recommendation, as did former Planning Director Michael Yee.
“We’ve been actively working with the applicant in this case as well as another applicant, along with Councilman Richards and trying to find a path forward that can … looks like we might be able to resolve a number of issues,” Deputy Planning Director Jeff Darrow told the council Planning Committee.
Julkowski said the project was the county’s idea all along.
“… on January of 2018, a county employee contacted us and asked us if we were interested in purchasing the piece of property that we had purchased,” Julkowski told the Leeward Planning Commission on Aug. 20. “We didn’t come to you guys; the county came to us with this project and then walked away from us and left us high and dry.”
He told the planning commission he was questioned extensively by the FBI, but he’s not allowed to go into detail about it because the investigation was ongoing. Julkowski said employees he was working with at the county Housing Agency were fired without notice and he ended up spending a lot of money on the project based on their promises.
Zendo Kern, who was Julkowski’s planning consultant but is now county planning director and recusing himself from the case, told the Leeward Planning Commission in August the scenario doesn’t make the county look good.
“Something really funky happened between that community component of having 80-something affordable units for Highlands being transferred to that non-profit to being sold for profit to my clients,” Kern said. “But when somebody in this, in this capacity, gets handed a project like this, and they pay 1.5 million dollars for a property that it gets, when it’s green lit to do something that they were told to be done, and the rug gets pulled out from underneath their feet, that’s a pretty sad day.”