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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Royal Kunia proposal adds 800 homes

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

An amendment that would allow the building of nearly 800 more homes in an already crowded urban area is expected to be proposed today before the City Council takes up final consideration of a plan that will guide development in Central O'ahu for the next 25 years.

Also on the agenda

The six departing City Council members have a full agenda to look forward to today at their last meeting, with three leasehold conversions and the extension of the Waimea Falls lease expected to draw heated testimony.

• As of noon yesterday, almost 150 people were signed up to testify on three mandatory leasehold conversions at the Kahala Beach, Admiral Thomas and Camelot condominiums. The council will decide whether to initiate condemnation proceedings at the three projects, a move opposed by landowners Kamehameha Schools, the First United Methodist Church, the Kekuku family estate and the Catholic Church's Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

• Only two people had signed up to testify over extending Waimea Management LLC's lease to manage Waimea Falls Park, which drew more than 20 community members to a Budget Committee meeting last month. However, a coalition of community organizations and business members is expected to appear in opposition to allowing park operator Ray Greene to continue managing the park while the city looks for a permanent operator.

If the amendment to Bill 26 — the Central O'ahu Sustainable Communities Plan — is approved, that would mean that nearly 10,000 new homes have been added to the plan recently, nearly doubling the 11,445 homes allowed in the original plan.

Residents already struggle with traffic and crowded schools, and they were worried that the plan allowed too much growth even before word of the amendment surfaced.

"The whole purpose of the plan was not to continue to add to the urban area, (but) to create an urban boundary," said City Councilman Gary Okino, chairman of the Planning Committee. "My problem is this surfaced so late that nobody has a chance to look at it, run it by the community and see how they feel about it."

However, advocates of the amendment, which would turn 150 acres of agricultural land in Royal Kunia into space for 780 more housing units to be built by Halekua Development Corp., pointed out that the change would allow the building of Royal Kunia Elementary School to proceed.

They also said the city has known about the request since April.

The additional units are part of Halekua's second phase of development, proposed in 1989. The 150 acres would bring the total number of acres developed by Halekua to 655 acres in Royal Kunia.

Phase 2 of Halekua's development plan had been put on hold because of financial constraints. Now that the developer has the money to proceed, it also can transfer the land promised to the state to build Royal Kunia Elementary School, a project that has been on hold since June. The building of another school in the area would alleviate crowding at other schools in the area, such as Kalei'opu'u Elementary.

Halekua had requested the reconfiguration of the urban growth boundary in meetings since April; the City Council Planning Committee had rejected it until this week.

According to Halekua's planning consultant, the 150-acre parcel, which was meant to be a buffer between the residential and industrial area in Royal Kunia, should be designated as residential because it falls within a boundary created by major power lines.

"As we look out 20 years, the plan shows how we allocate land use in the area. To exclude this 150 acres (as part of the residential area) just really doesn't make sense," said Jeff Overton of Group 70 International.

To keep the area designated as agricultural land "is like having farm land in the middle of a residential community," Overton added. "The power lines is a good break between the two."

He said the City Council has been aware of Halekua's request since April. "This isn't new to them," he said.

Halekua wouldn't complete its second phase of development, which will be done in increments, for at least five years, he said.

The development plan projects a Central O'ahu population of about 173,000 by 2025.

The original plan limited new homes to 11,445 more units, but the most recent draft unveiled to the community on Nov. 19 proposed an additional 9,000 homes, mostly in Koa Ridge and Waiawa.

Concerned residents worry that additional development will come without adequate infrastructure — roadways, traffic calming solutions, schools — to sustain the projected growth. Building more homes in Royal Kunia isn't seen as a solution.

"No one's done an analysis of the cumulative impact (of development) on the community," said Richard Poirier, chairman of the Mililani/Waipi'o/Melemanu Neighborhood Board. "Nothing's being planned."

Despite the last-minute amendment, Okino is confident the bill will receive final approval today.

"The question is," he said, "will it pass as is or with the amendment?"

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.