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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2002

Disabled care center proposed

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

A 43-acre mixed-use development that would touch a lot of bases in the community is being proposed by ORI Anuenue Hale Inc. for the area next to Helemano Plantation outside Wahiawa.

The Aloha Gardens will include commercial, recreational, educational, residential and agricultural components, developers say.

ORI Anuenue Hale is planning the $10 million complex to provide elderly day-care services, job training and an Americans with Disabilities Act recreational camp. ORI has filed a draft environmental assessment with the state for the project.

"We are excited about the project," said Ann Higa, chief operating officer for ORI. "We feel that not enough attention has been given to people with disabilities as they age; also the elderly in general, whose population is booming. We don't feel there are enough resources in this rural area and we want to address that."

ORI Anuenue Hale's parent company, Opportunities for the Retarded Inc., at Helemano Plantation, is known for its work with the mentally challenged. ORI Anuenue Hale was formed to provide services to a larger population needing assistance in the Central O'ahu and North Shore areas.

Project consultant Keith Kurahashi said presentations had been made to the Wahiawa Neighborhood Board, which approved the project, and the North Shore Neighborhood Board, which had not yet take a position on the development.

North Shore board chairwoman Kathleen Pahinui said the board was waiting for a decision from the city Department of Planning and Permitting on the nonprofit group's request for a zoning change before taking a position.

"We thought we didn't have enough information," Pahinui said. "We can't say it is good or bad without knowing all the facts."

Public invited to comment

Comment on the Aloha Gardens draft environmental assessment is being accepted until Aug. 22 at the City Department of Community Services, 715 South King St., No. 311, Honolulu HI 96813, Attn: Arnold Wong. Include copies for the consultant and state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

She said some area residents had expressed concerns about how the development would affect diversified agriculture and businesses in Hale'iwa, and whether zoning amendments should be allowed to the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan, which is only two years old.

Higa said the project is not an extension of Helemano's existing programs, but an expansion of overall services.

"What we want to do is focus more on elderly day care and incorporate a lot of health and wellness," she said. "Much of the area will remain in diversified agriculture. We want to promote a lot of the local fruits and vegetables."

The development is divided into two sections, both on vacant former pineapple land zoned as restricted agricultural district.

A 7.5-acre lot that needs to be zoned for neighborhood business would include an administration office, learning center, health and wellness center, a 180-stall parking lot, a mini-golf course and a country market with nine kiosks.

An adjacent 33.7-acre lot needs general agricultural zoning and would be used primarily for diversified agriculture. But it would include 10 residential duplexes for people with special needs, the recreation center with 10 cabins and two guest cottages, an office and pavilion, a farming/maintenance building, a manager and caretaker's cottage, an elderly care center and a playground.

Construction is expected to take five years once approvals and building permits are granted. The project is expected to create 94 permanent jobs.

Opportunities for the Retarded Inc. was founded in 1980 by company president and chief executive officer Susanna F. Cheung, along with a group of parents concerned about the future of their adult sons and daughters with developmental disabilities.

Helemano Plantation opened in 1984 on a 10-acre parcel, and today includes a retail gift shop, restaurants, fresh produce, gardens, aquaculture and training facilities and living quarters for the disabled.