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Project could help Nanakuli

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A company’s plans to build an industrial park that would provide badly needed jobs along the Waianae Coast will need another year to obtain approval by the state Land Use Commission. While the commission’s decision is a setback, the company should move forward and take measures needed to gain approval, providing an economic shot in the arm to the area.

The company had intended to use Lualualei Naval Access Road as the main route to the industrial park. The Navy has expressed willingness to provide a long-term easement for access, but did not commit to a binding agreement. Two of the commissioners voting against the project because of that caveat, a strong indication that the proposal will be approved next year if the Navy agrees on paper to the road access.

The Nanakuli-Maili Neighborhood Board has unanimously supported the proposal for the past three years as an economic shot in the arm, as has the area’s business community.

Tropic plans to create about 40 lots averaging two acres each for sale to business owners, which could create hundreds of well-paying jobs in the area that has Oahu’s highest unemployment rate.

Opponents say the land, which once was used to grow sugar cane prior to 1946, should remain agricultural, but its usefulness as farmland is disputable, having last been used for limited truck crops on 15 acres. The 40 acres to be used for urban use have not been cultivated since the 1980s.

A Japan-based company bought the land in 1987 with plans for a golf course, but came up against community opposition. It sold the land to Tropic Land six years ago for $3 million. The new owner considered using the land for diversified agriculture and found that the soil conditions were unsuitably rocky or clayish, and irrigation would not be affordable.

Opponents complained that the light industrial development would alter the rural and farm character of the community, but economic stagnation has troubled the area for decades.

Kamehameha Schools is going forward with ambitious plans for an education center at the west end of the coast in Makaha Valley, and Tropic Land’s modest Nanakuli Community Baseyard could bring economic vitality to the coast’s eastern valley.

Arick Yanagihara, Tropic Land’s project manager, said the company was "shocked about the outcome."

While that is understandable, the company should not lose heart. It should continue to work with the community and the Navy to win support for what could be a valuable asset to the Waianae Coast’s struggling economy.

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