HILO » The University of Hawaii at Hilo is a step closer to winning county approval for a rezoning plan that would make it easier to build housing and commercial facilities on campus and surrounding land.
West Hawaii Today reported that the Windward Planning Commission on Thursday voted 6-1 to forward the plan to the Hawaii County Council with a positive recommendation.
The rezoning would change single-family residential and agricultural zones to a university district that will include student housing along with restaurants and markets, medical offices, financial institutions and private research facilities.
The County Council created the university district zoning category in 2007 to enhance campus life.
The rezoning also affects the 101-acre university main campus, the University Park of Science & Technology on the upper campus, the Komohana Ag Station, the Hale Kawili Student Housing and 13.4 acres of vacant upper campus lands.
Despite community concerns, the commission gave up an 80-foot-wide right of way for a future road linking two streets. The university’s real property director and a consultant said they wanted to remove the possible road to create a more cohesive central campus where students could walk or take shuttle buses to class.
"It will just divide that campus and just destroy all that cohesiveness," said consultant Roy Takemoto, managing director of the Hilo office of PBR Hawaii & Associates.
Hans Santiago, who said he lives on the top of Mohouli Street, asked the commission to keep the right of way in the plans, at least until the university came up with an alternative traffic route that would relieve traffic congestion on his street.
Commissioner Raylene Moses cast the lone "no" vote on the rezoning, saying the county shouldn’t give up the right of way until it sees what accommodations the university is going to make to handle traffic.