POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 11, 2011
Long-range plans to rezone land in Koolauloa to make way for a plan by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for homes, shops and churches have been supported by an LDS-commissioned survey, but the plan remains vague and needs healthy skepticism and scrutiny before it earns a series of government approvals. The plan has been opposed by some residents predicting traffic congestion in the Laie area, one key concern among others that need to be satisfied.
The Dec. 8 survey by Honolulu's Ward Research Inc. and Washington, D.C-based Heart + Mind Strategies found that 157 Koolauloa residents and 675 living elsewhere on Oahu support the plan by a 2-to-1 ratio. In recent public meetings, those in favor and in opposition have been evenly divided.
Laie is home to Brigham Young University-Hawaii and the LDS-operated Polynesian Cultural Center, and the plans are designed to enhance those institutions as well as the general community. The plans would facilitate growth for BYUH from the present 2,400 students to an enrollment of 5,000.
The 50-room Laie Inn has been demolished and plans are under way to replace it with a 220-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The property, owned by the LDS-affiliated Hawaii Reserves Inc., already is zoned for resort use.
Richard E. Marriott is chairman of the boards of Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. and the Polynesian Cultural Center, and is a board member of the National Advisory Council of Brigham Young University.
The more-than-fourfold size of the new hotel complex -- with three- to four-story structures -- is already causing worries about traffic and capacity for some Koolauloa residents. Indeed, effects after the hotel opens in September 2013 could well determine the path and pace of Envision Laie's future development.
The planners say people staying at the hotel will be offered bus rides to and from Leeward Oahu rather than rent cars to add to the North Shore traffic, but is that a realistic expectation? Roadways are planned to circumvent the main Kamehameha Highway to avoid traffic congestion, but will they do that?
The long-range project originated in 1998 but was changed last October and presented to the city Department of Planning and Permitting. Initial plans for 1,200 residential units were pared down to 875 units on land now zoned for agriculture in Malaekahana, along with commercial "village centers." Two in five of the Koolauloa residents polled in the recent survey said family members had been driven out of the region in the past decade due to lack of jobs or because they couldn't find affordable housing. In fact, Envision Laie's efforts to involve community stakeholders in devising and refining a palatable project is laudable, and must continue.
Opponents of the plan have complained that it "was supposed to keep the country country." The survey found that two-thirds of Koolauloa residents agreed that "a moderate amount of growth" is needed to make their communities "vibrant and sustainable," rather than not being allowed to "grow at all."
How things unfold as Envision Laie's multi-use redevelopment winds its way through city and state permitting processes will depend on transparency and frankness in matters such as traffic congestion, infrastructure and land use.
Growth toward community self-sufficiency is a worthy goal -- but only if the growth plan provides details for discussion on its true scale and scope.