Scott Wallace has been a successful movie theater chain owner in Hawaii. But the North Shore resident is facing difficulty trying to redraw land-use boundaries in Haleiwa so he can develop up to
35 house lots.
Recently the Honolulu Planning Commission decided to oppose Wallace’s plan after it received support from the city Department of Planning and Permitting.
Soon it will be up to the City Council to decide whether to allow the estimated $2 million project called Haleiwa Plantation Village.
Wallace, namesake of the Wallace Theaters chain now managed under the Regal brand, is seeking to rezone 7 acres of agricultural land that borders small farm parcels, large farm parcels, a marsh and homes.
The “plantation village” plan is at least the third attempt to build homes on the site, which was once proposed for 80 homes. Wallace, who bought the property with local law firm Rush Moore LLP in 2010 for $1.2 million from Castle &Cooke Hawaii, has been working on his plan for six years.
Wallace claims his property isn’t viable farmland and that it is suitable for urban development because it is within the city’s urban growth boundary and is partially within the state urban land use boundary. He also said his plan conforms to the city’s North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan, which supports “infill” development to provide housing in line with the area’s rural character.
But some neighbors and other North Shore residents argue that the site, which is part of a bigger mass of agricultural land within the horseshoe-shaped band of Haleiwa town’s commercial and residential area, should maintain its agricultural use and that homes on the site would make traffic and flooding worse.
The opposing contentions played out at January and March meetings of the Planning Commission, a city review and advisory board.
“This is not a subdivision or tract homes,” Wallace told the commission. “This is not a greenfield development out in the middle of nowhere. It’s really an infill project.”
Loan Lovan, a farmer who has used the property since 1984 and also farms 100 acres in Waialua, said he gave up farming the
7 acres in Haleiwa a couple years ago in part because it’s too close to homes and isn’t big enough to store much equipment.
“I don’t want to farm over there anymore,” he said.
A consultant for Wallace said in the zoning change application that Lovan tried to grow wetland taro but gave up because of a persistent and unmanageable apple snail infestation. The application also said the land floods during heavy rainstorms, the soil on the site is sticky when wet and too hard when dry, and that the cost for irrigating crops is expensive: about
$1.31 for 1,000 gallons of water compared with 50 cents from most Oahu irrigation sources.
The state Department of Agriculture raised no objections.
Mike Watkins, a Department of Planning and Permitting official, told the commission the project is supported by city policies and aligns with the area’s existing pattern of land uses.
In the community there is a mixed reaction. The developer’s consultant, Pacific Catalyst LLC, contended that the housing plan received a “largely positive” response at a 2012 neighborhood board meeting when the project called for 25 homes. However, at a follow-up meeting last year, a motion to support the project failed in a 10-2 vote.
Gordon Saker, an electrician and 25-year Haleiwa resident, told the commission that he viewed Wallace’s plan as providing affordable housing on the North Shore where property values are through the roof. “I welcome this opportunity to have a chance to buy something that’s affordable,” he said.
Cathy Shanley, a North Shore resident and real estate agent, said residents are having to move away because they can’t afford rising prices of homes in the area. “This project presents an opportunity for those of us in the community to purchase property,” she said.
Wallace did not project prices for the lots he proposes to develop along with infrastructure including roads, a stormwater retention basin and a wastewater treatment plant. But the estimated price to develop the lots is $2 million.
Under city regulations,
30 percent of the project would have to be offered to local residents at prices affordable to households earning up to 140 percent of Oahu’s median income. If that were applied to a house for a family of four, the family could earn up to $140,700, and the home price could be up to about $720,000. However, city representatives said they weren’t sure how that would be applied to lots if Wallace’s project is approved.
Hawaii developer and North Shore resident Simon Bebb projected that homes on the site might cost $500,000 to $600,000 based on $250,000 for a lot and $250,000 to $300,000 for construction.
“That’s affordable,” he told the commission. “This isn’t a neighborhood where there’s going to be high-end luxury vacation rentals.”
Racquel Achiu, a lifelong North Shore resident, suggested to the commission that no homes on the North Shore are affordable and that Wallace’s project isn’t going to be different. “We all know this is not going to be affordable,” she testified.
Kehuyn Schackelfurd of Waialua said she can remember lotus root and burdock root being grown on the property. “What they claim is rubbish land is not,” she said.
Added state Sen. Gil
Riviere, who represents Haleiwa, “The land has been useful.”
Joni Shiraishi, a North Shore resident and real estate agent, expressed concern about more ag land being rezoned for housing if the city rezones this piece of Haleiwa. “Where’s that going to stop?” she asked the commission.
Commission Chairman Dean Hazama said he was a little conflicted in his consideration because he supports preserving farmland but recognizes the city’s urban growth boundary that identifies land envisioned for urban growth.
The commission voted 5-1 to make a recommendation to the City Council against Wallace’s project. Hazama was with the majority, which also included Kaiulani Sodaro, Arthur Tolentino, Daniel Young and Ken Hayashida. Cord Anderson voted to endorse the project.