Molokai Mansion

Green light given to construct largest west end home

By David Lichtenstein

Molokai Planning Commissioners approved a permit exemption April 22 for a 20,000-square foot, 10-bathroom home that will be part of the largest estate ever constructed on the West End of Molokai.

Called a “farm dwelling” in Maui County documents, this project, by the Zappacosta family from Italy, will sit on 6.5 acres in an agricultural zone on the shoreline south of the Papohaku Dunes. It will include a main house, second farm dwelling, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and barn. Although valued at $3.3 million, project manager Luigi Manera, of Architectural Drafting Services, believes the total cost will be closer to $10 million once the Italian marble and other customized items are included.

The sheer size and scope of this project led the commissioners to question if the county should require a major Special Management Area permit instead of the SMA exemption that the county’s planning director had recommended.

“I don’t support gentlemen estates on ag land,” said Commissioner Lori Buchanan. But because Manera is project manager and promised to use all local labor and water conservation methods, Buchanan made the motion to concur with this exemption. A desalination plant will be used for the swimming pool and to supply water for the avocado, mango and citrus trees along with other landscaping elements.

New commissioner John Sprinzel said that while the project follows all county rules, it doesn’t comply with “the spirit of Molokai” and urged the applicant to use more solar power. Commissioner Mikiala Pescaia, while viewing an artistic rendering, said the project doesn’t “look like Molokai” but said she understood the need for local jobs.

Voting against the project were vice chairman of the planning commission Steve Chaikin and new Commissioner Napua Leong. Chaikin expressed concerned over what would happen if the property transferred hands — would the new owner be compelled to show the same concern for the environment as the current applicant? In particular, Chaikin wondered out loud about water use and if a future owner would be required to conserve water.

Chairman of the Planning Commission Joseph Kalipi withheld his vote until he saw there was no clear majority and that he would have to cast the decisive vote. Kalipi, who lives in Maunaloa, said he fishes and hunts in the area and was somewhat against the project but agreed with the exemption as long as the representations made by the owner were fulfilled.

Manera said that the project will break ground in about three months and will take approximately three years to complete.

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