Hawaii’s highest court ruled today that an initial phase of the planned Koa Ridge residential community in Central Oahu may proceed.
The 4-1 decision ended more than three years of litigation and was welcomed by the project’s developer Castle & Cooke Hawaii, but was a disappointment for opponents of the controversial development plan.
“We are very pleased with today’s Supreme Court’s ruling that will allow Castle & Cooke to move forward with its long anticipated Koa Ridge master-planned community,” Harry Saunders, the company’s president, said in a statement.
Castle & Cooke said it anticipates starting construction next year and delivering the first initial homes in the last quarter of 2018.
An initial phase of Koa Ridge allows up to 3,500 homes between Mililani and Waipio. The state Land Use Commission granted approval in 2012 for Castle & Cooke to convert 768 acres from agricultural to urban use as a first major step in the project’s regulatory approval process. A second phase with 1,500 homes is planned but has not received necessary approvals to proceed.
The LUC decision was made over arguments from the Sierra Club, a state Senator at the time, Clayton Hee, and the longtime chairman of the Mililani Neighborhood Board, Richard Poirier.
The Sierra Club and Hee appealed the LUC decision to state Circuit Court on grounds that the commission’s decision breached a constitutional mandate to preserve agricultural lands and that the state failed to establish rules designating important agricultural lands. Castle & Cooke won the initial appeal that now has been upheld by the state’s high court.
The company obtained zoning approvals from the City Council in 2013.
Today’s ruling follows a similar decision the Hawaii Supreme Court made in December regarding the 11,750-home Ho‘opili project in Ewa by developer D.R. Horton.
Horton began doing some initial grading work about two weeks ago, though a formal groundbreaking ceremony is planned for this summer after the developer obtains permits for roads and other infrastructure plans.