By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer
Concern is growing among some members of the Central Oahu community that a developers proposal to build a 41-acre shopping center in Royal Kunia will kill already struggling businesses in nearby Waipahu and worsen area traffic problems.
City Councilman Gary Okino, who represents a neighboring district, called the Kahala Mall-sized development a "serious threat" to the economic and social well-being of the Waipahu community.
The City Councils Zoning Committee will discuss a proposal to pave the way for the development with a change in zoning from limited industrial use to neighborhood business district at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Honolulu Hale.
Okino noted the drop in business to Waipahu merchants since Safeway closed its store there Nov. 30. Before that, there was the impact of the opening of the Waikele outlet mall in 1995.
"After what Waikele did to Waipahu town, this shopping center would be the death blow for Waipahu," Okino said. "The businesses are still hanging on by their fingernails."
Landowners HRT Ltd., Honolulu Ltd. and 300 Corporation have proposed building a shopping center that is expected to include two large anchor tenants, a supermarket, drugstore, entertainment center with theaters, bowling alley and arcade, as well as financial and medical offices.
Waipahu Neighborhood Board member Richard Oshiro represents the area of Royal Kunia and Village Park. He said the board earlier supported the concept of the development, believing it would be a smaller neighborhood center.
"What we werent informed about was the magnitude of the plan," Oshiro said.
He said residents want to know more about the project before the council approves it, especially the increase in traffic. "Weve seen the impact of Wal-Mart on the community; thats caused a lot of traffic tie-ups and bottlenecks."
Councilwoman Rene Mansho, who represents the area, said shes inclined to support the center but wants to hear more from the community at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at H¯aeae Community Park.
Developer consultant Keith Kurahashi said he believes the proposal is consistent with the intent of the Central Oahu Sustainable Communities Plan. "We feel that it would be appropriate for the Royal Kunia-Village Park area to have a major community commercial center."
City Department of Planning and Permitting Director Randall Fujiki has expressed reluctance to back so large a project.
In a Sept. 1 letter to the city Planning Commission, Fujiki said that "the department only supports the zone change for about half of the site due to issues related to the size of the proposed neighborhood business project, relative to the size of the supporting community."
Mansho wonders if the criticism is coming from the "rival community" of Waipahu.
Darrlyn Bunda, executive director of the Waipahu Community Association, said such an ambitious project would sap energy from the revitalization of the old plantation town of Waipahu.
"This is in direct conflict with what were trying to do in the business core," Bunda said.
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