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City Council committee gives preliminary OK to Koa Ridge

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 11:25 p.m. HST, Sep 12, 2013

A bill rezoning 576 acres of agricultural land in Waipio for Castle and Cooke's large-scale Koa Ridge project was given a preliminary approval by the City Council Planning Committee late Thursday.

The 5-0 approval came after nearly five hours of debate with impassioned arguments about the need for jobs and housing clashing with equally emotional testimony about traffic worries and the loss of agricultural land.

Members Ann Kobayashi and Ron Menor voted "yes" with reservations, citing continued worries about traffic. The others voting yes were Zoning Chairman Ikaika Anderson and members Breene Harimoto and Kymberly Pine.

Bill 48 now goes to the full Council for the second of three required votes.

The measure allows the developer to build up to 3,500 residential units on 576 acres of former pineapple land just north of Ka Uka Boulevard and the Waipio Costco, between Waipio and Mililani.

Castle and Cooke planner Keith Kurahashi said besides badly needed housing, the project will provide 2,300 permanent jobs, 1,100 of them in the medical field due to the expected relocation of the existing Wahiawa General Hospital.

The ratio of two jobs for every three homes developed will help ease anticipated traffic caused by the project, Kurahashi said.

All the recommended improvements in a traffic impact analysis report, with the exception of a costly H-2 Freeway interchange at Pineapple Road, will be completed the first homes are developed in 2016, he said.

But Dick Poirier, longtime chairman of the Mililani Neighborhood Board, said the traffic report done in 2009 and paid for by the developer is flawed.

Yet to be approved by the state Department of Transportation, the plan only takes into consideration traffic from Mililani to Pearl City and doesn't paint a complete picture, Poirier said.

City Planning Director George Atta said while the city's $5.26 billion rail project wouldn't travel by Koa Ridge, officials are looking at establishing a bus rapid transit plan, akin to an express bus along a dedicated route, between the project and rail's intended transit stop in nearby Pearl City.

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