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Editorial | Island Voices

Development ideas contradict General Plan

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    Laie is known for its laid-back environment, so proposed growth is stirring debate in the community.

More examination, please. Oahu is only a 597-square-mile tiny island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.

For some, "sustainability" means more growth, new subdivisions, development and hotels to promote jobs along with a percentage of "affordable" housing.

For others, sustainability means protecting near-shore ecosystems, diminishing agricultural lands, controlling tax burdens of massive infrastructure projects and protecting Hawaii’s cultural traditions and sense of place.

Both claim their interpretations relevant to quality of life. City Hall claims there is no consensus. Thus, the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) treats "no consensus" as a green light for massive developments.

But, islanders want merits and impacts scrutinized before any green light to massive developments.

The 2010 draft of the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan (KSCP) contradicts the values and vision as outlined in the Oahu General Plan and Hawaii 2050, the recent statewide vision plan. I shall very briefly highlight a few contradictions and discrepancies.

Oahu’s General Plan extols Koolauloa’s special sense of "Old Hawaii." It states that "agricultural lands are preserved for agricultural uses," "the ‘ahupuaa concept is used as the organizing basis for land use planning and natural resource management in Ko’olau Loa."

The General Plan further specifies Koolauloa’s natural resources and predominantly "country" character should be maintained by allowing only limited development in established communities, and that agricultural lands along the windward, North Shore and Waianae coasts be maintained for diversified agriculture.

Do "old Hawaii" and diversified agriculture fit with five hotels, 1,000 condominiums, and a new Envision Laie plan with 875 homes, a regional commercial center, industrial and technology parks on 900 acres of ag land?

Will Hawaiian culture and values come to hotels hiring kupuna to provide coconut bird-weaving and ukulele sessions?

The draft KSCP says, "… the ‘ahupuaa concept is used as the organizing basis for land use planning and natural resource management in Koolauloa." However, Envision Laie would marginalize kuleana lands and traditional ahupua’a boundaries in historic Malaekahana. Kuleana landowners have no place at the table in this discussion.

City DPP Director David Tanoue said he "will widen" Kamehameha Highway to address traffic impacts from massive developments. Widening the highway would eventually displace hundreds of private owners and businesses from Kaneohe to Haleiwa. Who would invest in ownership with such profound development impacts?

Should carte blanche permission of massive development be given without examining planning, financing and constructing infrastructure as stipulated in the KSCP?

What is the cost of such infrastructure to already burdened taxpayers? Taxpayers are already laden with the $5.5 billion rail and a billion-dollar-plus Environmental Protection Agency consent decree for sewer updates.

These discrepancies and contradictions in the draft 2010 Koolauloa SCP must be ironed out before it is approved by DPP.

I conclude with former Gov. George Ariyoshi’s caution from a June 2006 Hawaii Business article: "We need more thinking, more discussion and more planning. Otherwise, we will continue to drift from project to project, and, incrementally, we will lose what we hold most dear about Hawaii."

Choon James, a real estate broker who has lived in the Koolauloa area since 1975, is a member of the Ko’olau Loa Sustainable Communities Planning Advisory Committee.


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