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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 6, 2006

Concerns surround Waipahu housing plan

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

Citing a pressing need for affordable housing, the City Council zoning committee yesterday gave preliminary approval to a twin-tower condominium project in Waipahu that some area residents say would seriously affect their neighborhood.

The committee voted 3-2 to recommend exempting the proposed 330-unit Plantation Town Apartments project from height restrictions and other zoning requirements. The full council will make a final decision July 19.

The $61.8 million, fee-simple project would have two 12-story towers on a site near Waipahu District Park. The height exemption was needed because the proposed buildings would be 105 feet tall, and the area has a 60-foot height limit.

Zoning committee chairman Charles Djou said the council has to balance the concerns of the community to keep open space against the clear need for affordable housing given the homeless situation on O'ahu.

"It's a difficult issue," Djou said. He, Ann Kobayashi and Romy Cachola voted for the exemptions; Barbara Marshall and Nestor Garcia voted no.

Aside from the height and concerns about increased traffic, residents opposing the Plantation Town Apartments project fear that pile driving for the project will increase their existing water ponding problems, an issue zoning committee members are concerned about.

The 6-acre project site, which the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai'i said is the last non-ceded residential parcel owned by the state on O'ahu, is on wetlands regulated since 1975 under the federal Clean Water Act by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ponding problems for the residents stem from development of their respective neighborhoods before 1975, according to Farley Watanabe, Army Corps of Engineers program manager. Historically, previous development on the wetlands involved driving piles into fill and capping springs, he said.

"What's happened is unless you drain the water, you're always going to have soggy ground," Wata-nabe said.

Richard Costa, a Nali'i Street resident whose home is about 50 feet away from the project site, said, "The ground in our area is completely saturated with water. The kinetic force from the pile driving would not only shake the houses, the houses will likely bounce because of being on a bed of water. Not if, but when the houses' 4-inch foundations crack from the pounding, the water would then start coming up inside these houses. This is not something that might happen. It will happen when the pile driving starts."

Developer Michael Kimura said plans are to drive piles 40 to 60 feet deep to build the foundation for the high rises on solid rock layer and says it's necessary to build above the existing height limit to keep the project affordable.

If the full council approves the project, Kimura plans to break ground in August. Test piles would be driven in September and construction would begin in October. The first tower is planned to be completed in December 2007 and the second a month later.

Also yesterday, the zoning committee approved exemptions for a separate condo project in Waipahu. GSF Inc. is planning to develop Mokuola Vista, an eight-story building on 1,394 acres of state land at the corner of Mokuola Street and Kauolu Place.

The for-sale project will have 70 two-bedroom units, 112 parking stalls and a private park. It will be priced for families with household incomes at or below 140 percent of O'ahu's median income.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.