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City planning panel approves of rezoning near rail stations

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The Honolulu Planning Commission voted last week to recommend approval of a city proposal to rezone about 282 acres in Waipahu to make way for mixed-use communities around the area’s two rail stations.

The proposal, approved by a 7-0 vote, will now proceed to the City Council for further discussion and a final vote.

Drafted by the city Department of Planning and Permitting, the proposal calls for rezoning about 105 acres around the Waipahu transit center station and about 177 at the West Loch station. The zone changes would allow for more mixed uses, where building heights would generally remain the same.

The plan also would amend the land use ordinance to create a new transit-oriented development, or TOD, special district. Standards and regulations within the district would apply to areas around all of the city’s rail stations, except for two in Kakaako that are under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

Establishing the new special district modeled around the concept of “live, work, play” seeks to, among other things, improve mobility, direct Oahu’s future population growth to areas along the rail system and create “quality community gathering spaces,” according to the DPP.

Developers would be able to apply for additional heights and densities around the rail stations but will need to provide public benefits in return, including affordable housing, parks and pedestrian amenities.

At last week’s hearing, during which three community members testified about the proposal, Planning Commission Chairman Dean Hazama added a recommendation to the Council to specify that the proposal call for some changes to both TOD zones and areas islandwide, such as regulations for off-site bicycle parking.

Van Peterson, property manager with Servco Pacific Inc., voiced concerns about how the zoning changes would affect ts Waipahu location on Farrington Highway.

“Servco continues to support the general concept and vision of the Waipahu TOD plan,” Peterson said at the meeting. “(But) for this process to be successful, it must continue to support the current and future businesses and people who live and work in the area of Waipahu.”

Several Waipahu residents have also raised concerns about how increased development will affect traffic, congestion and the neighborhood’s character.

Harrison Rue, the city’s TOD administrator, maintained that the proposal is reflective of key feedback from residents, adding that the DPP has “done extensive work with the community.”

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