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Don’t skip Laie planning steps

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The fact that an assignment is already overdue usually fuels a push to get it done quickly, but it’s also a sure way to get a flawed result.

That observation can apply to a draft the city has kicked out for public review on the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan, updating a document designed for a five-year shelf life that, instead, has been on the books for more than twice that long.

The plan sets out goals and policies to guide the future of the Windward Oahu coast between Kahuku and Kaaawa. It took shape following community meetings in 1998; naturally, in the years since then, some reordering of priorities might be expected.

But some fairly substantial changes are proposed in the new draft, issued this month by the city Department of Planning and Permitting. The disturbing issue is the dismay voiced by members of the Public Advisory Committee, a community panel set up expressly to vet some of the plan amendments. The committee last met in August 2009 and did not see this version of the plan before it emerged in draft form.

IF YOU WANT TO WEIGH IN ……

The public can review the draft of the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan until Dec. 15, when comments are due. The plan can be downloaded online (http://www.honoluludpp.org/planning).

Comments should be submitted to: Helber, Hastert & Fee Planners Inc., 733 Bishop St., Suite 2590, Honolulu, HI 96813; by e-mail to info@hhf.com; or by fax to 545-2050.

The community can and should enter the discussion during the comment period (see box) and once the plan moves to the city Planning Commission for public hearings. But the city assembled the broad community-based panel for a reason, to make sure a wide range of community interests were represented in the drafting of the plan.

The biggest changes reflect elements of a proposal by Hawaii Reserves Inc., which manages and owns property associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That blueprint, known by the moniker "Envision Laie," would include an expansion of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, commercial "village centers" in Laie and Malaekahana, some commercial development and the construction of about 875 affordable-housing units in Malaekahana.

Contrast this with the way rural Malaekahana is described in the current plan: "Major themes of ranching and aquaculture would continue mauka of Kamehameha Highway. On the makai side, any increase in density or redevelopment should be avoided. Malaekahana should remain as an open space break between Kahuku and Laie to avoid lateral growth." That’s quite a change — too drastic to be treated casually.

Spokesmen from the project point out that this is scaled down from the 1,200 housing units originally sought. And to its credit, the developers did embark on its own community consultation process to get resident suggestions.

However, it’s important to get a review by a more dispassionate group than one formed by the developers themselves. The city needs to revise this draft again, once the advisory committee has time to review it and before it moves on to the next planning stage.

Few would dispute the pent-up demand for affordable housing in Koolauloa: It’s a need cited often in the existing plan as well.

But process can be important to the substance of a debate, and city officials need to keep the process robust. Very little that can be called "sustainable" remains in planning that’s lacking in due diligence.

 

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