Permitted as a single-family residence, Greg Brown’s home has been advertised as a vacation rental for up to $20,000 per night.

A long-simmering dispute between Maui County and the developer of an eight-bedroom, 12-bath house in Napili appears to be reaching a boiling point.

Earlier this month, the county planning director sent a warning to an attorney representing Greg Brown, who built the massive home at 5385 Lower Honoapiilani Road. He’s the owner of Brown Development, a company that builds luxury homes on Maui and Hawaii island.

Kathleen Ross Aoki’s July 11 letter said if Brown plans to use the 7,480-square-foot house as a transient vacation rental, the planning department “will be obligated to subject the property to zoning enforcement.”

Developer Greg Brown will face zoning enforcement if he tries to use his monster home in Napili as a vacation rental, according to the Maui planning director.
Developer Greg Brown will face zoning enforcement if he tries to use his monster home in Napili as a vacation rental, according to the Maui planning director. It was listed recently for rent online for $8,500 to $20,000 per night. (Screenshot/Exotic Estates/2023)

The county charges $20,000 for initial violations. If the situation isn’t corrected, violators incur fines at up to $10,000 per subsequent day, said Jordan Hart, Maui’s zoning administration and enforcement division director.

Aoki’s letter was in response to correspondence from Jeffrey Ueoka, Brown’s lawyer and a former Maui Corporation Counsel attorney. In his June 9 letter, Ueoka said Brown intends to legally operate the 45-foot-tall structure as a transient vacation rental, which on Maui means a unit rented for less than 180 days.

Kathleen Ross Aoki is Maui County planning director. (Courtesy: Maui County)

The home, dubbed Napili Beach House, with its rooftop pool, spa, elevator and stunning views of Molokai, was advertised as of Tuesday morning as “perfect for large groups seeking private luxury accommodations” at $85,000 a month. The ad was taken down from the Exotic Escapes’ website shortly after Civil Beat inquired about it.

The home was previously listed on the website as available for $8,500 to $20,000 per night.

Chris Salem, board chairman of Napili Bay Community Association, said he is frustrated by the “arrogant developer” and wants the planning director to revoke Brown’s permits.

Brown referred an interview request to Ueoka.

Questions over Brown’s intended use for the house date back to 2018.

In August of that year, county planner Jim Buika asked Tom Schnell of PBR Hawaii in an email, “is this a house, home, apartment, short term rental? You state it is a home/single family residence but the design does not reflect this.” Schnell’s firm, which does land use planning and landscape architecture, was representing Brown.

Brown told Buika by email that he designed the home as a single-family residence but that he also intended to use it as a vacation rental.

“This is not a hotel, it is a residential home,” Brown wrote. “I am a thirty year resident of Hawaii with five children and thus the reason for the large home along with a better legal rental potential.”

County Council member Tamara Paltin's district includes Napili. (Courtesy: Maui County)
County Council member Tamara Paltin’s district includes Napili. (Courtesy: Maui County)

Former Planning Director Michele McLean told Ueoka and Brown on March 21, 2021 that the home could not be be used as a transient vacation rental.

In July 2021, Ueoka relayed Brown’s concerns with the county’s position on the home to Maui’s Corporation Counsel, but said he did not receive a response.

By this time, controversy over the size of Brown’s house, which sleeps 24, was red hot within the community.

The Napili Bay Community Association had formed to try to stop construction, and the Maui County Council held multiple hearings. Council members considered exercising eminent domain to have the house torn down and turned into a Native Hawaiian cultural center.

The council authorized an investigation into why the planning department under former Mayor Michael Victorino allowed the giant structure to be built in the first place. That investigation died in Council member Tamara Paltin’s Planning and Sustainable Use Committee.

The county at times tried to alter aspects of the home, which some critics have described as an eyesore that’s out of character with the neighborhood. The county issued stop work orders in December 2021 saying the home’s construction deviated from original building plans for height and floor layout.

Fixes were made, stop work orders were lifted and permits were reinstated in February 2022. But the controversy didn’t go away.

Critics note that Brown avoided requirements for a Special Management Area permit because he kept the size of his house to just under the 7,500-square-foot limit. If he had been required to get an SMA permit, the development would have needed to go before the planning commission, a process that would have subjected it to public scrutiny and an environmental assessment.

Chris Salem, left, is board chairman of the Napili Bay Community Association. Next to him is West Maui resident Kanamu Balinbin. (Paula Dobbyn/Civil Beat/2022)

As controversy continued to swirl over the Brown home, the County Council adopted new zoning codes for the Napili Bay Civic Improvement District effective Aug. 9, 2021. The new rules limit buildings to two stories or 30 feet in height and they require homeowners to get special-use permits to operate hotels, short-term rentals or transient accommodations.  

“As this property’s single-family dwelling was not completely constructed by nor occupied by August 6, 2021, as stated in the ordinance, hotel or apartment-hotel uses were not established. Therefore, the subject property and the single-family dwelling is permitted residential uses only,” Aoki wrote in her letter this month to Brown.

Advertising the property alone is not sufficient evidence that Brown is breaking the law, Aoki said in an interview Friday. Spots checks of the property may occur. If evidence is collected that Brown is using the house as a vacation rental, he would be issued a warning notice and given time to correct the problem, she said.

Brown’s lawyer said he hopes to resolve the issue through dialogue with the planning department. Ultimately, the house should be grandfathered in, Ueoka said.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

Read the letters between Ueoka and the Maui planning director here:

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