The Maui County Council voted Tuesday to advance two resolutions related to a monster house in Napili constructed by developer Greg Brown.
The first resolution, introduced by Council Member Tamara Paltin, would authorize the county to acquire the property at 5385 Lower Honoapiilani Road by eminent domain and turn it into a public building for Hawaiian cultural education or other uses.
The council referred the resolution to Council Member Mike Molina’s government relations, ethics and transparency committee.
A second resolution would authorize a formal investigation of the Departments of Planning and Public Works related to the county’s issuance of construction permits that allowed the giant house to be built. The council referred the resolution to Council Member Kelly King’s climate action, resilience and environment committee. King had introduced the resolution.
King’s resolution notes that planning director Michele McLean told a council committee on March 22 that the house, as built, violates Special Management Area rules and zoning. The problems include the house’s enormous square footage, towering height, a swimming pool in a setback area and more. It says McLean may not have followed the “established process” for enforcement once the irregularities came to light and that the planning department “may be making false representations” with respect to the developers’ compliance with code.
Several members of the public testified in support of the resolutions. Christopher Fishkin spoke in favor of moving forward with an investigation, but he criticized the eminent domain proposal. The concept of the county spending taxpayer money to purchase the Napili house is misguided, in his view.
“It tries to fix the problem by rewarding the bad actors. It pays off the developer with taxpayer funds and whitewashes the alleged violations of planning director McLean and public works as if these alleged violations never happened with no determinations and no accountability,” Fishkin said.
Joshua Downer, a member of the Napili Bay Community Association, thanked Paltin and Kelly for taking “decisive action.”
There’s a “sad cycle in Maui County of illegal actions that citizens have to bring suit against the county in order to stop,” Downer said.
In the Brown case, he would like the council to appoint a special counsel to examine how and why the developer got permission to build the eight-bedroom, 45-foot-tall home despite numerous code violations. Downer said it is his opinion the Department of the Corporation Council is not equipped to conduct an impartial investigation because it represents the interests of the planning department.
Downer said Paltin’s resolution is concrete action to ensure that ongoing construction of the Brown house is stopped and that the sprawling structure is turned over for public use.
Neither Brown nor his attorney could be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.
One of the audit’s top findings was that many zoning employees lack confidence in the department’s leadership. McLean told Civil Beat that she blames that largely on how she responded to public outcry over the Brown house, namely her public criticism of the zoning division’s mishandling of the project.
Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.
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