Mormon Church plans 1,200-home community near Laie
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Writer
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hopes to expand on an old plan to build a new community with 1,200 homes, a shopping center, churches, parks and a light industrial park in Malaekahana near La'ie.
The plan driven by the growth needs of Brigham Young University-Hawai'i will shape La'ie and Malaekahana for the next 50 years and could create a whole new town. The plan is also meant to address education, housing and job issues facing the community.
Envision La'ie, a group of planners commissioned by the Mormon Church, will present its findings and proposals to the Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board tonight.
A similar plan proposed by Hawaii Reserves Inc., which manages and owns land affiliated with the Mormon Church, had proposed building 550 homes in Malaekahana but the plan was withdrawn last year due to feasibility issues, political conditions and moderate community support.
If accepted, the new Envision La'ie plan would use the same site.
BYUH wants the city to change its master plan for Ko'olauloa, which includes La'ie, to allow housing and light industry in Malaekahana and allow the university to expand its campus.
The changes will ensure BYUH's ability to increase its student body 5 percent to 7 percent a year while it expands or replaces old campus buildings, said Steven Wheelwright, BYUH president.
Wheelwright said the plan also preserves expansion options for the Polynesian Cultural Center, which would have to expand along with the university because most of its students work there to offset college expenses. The PCC has about 250 full-time employees and hires an additional 700 students, he said.
"We're anxious that the Polynesian Cultural Center can continue to be viable partner in the community so as we grow and need more student jobs, they can provide those student jobs," Wheelwright said.
The proposal has wide support in La'ie, Kahuku and Hau'ula, Wheelwright said.
But the Defend Oahu Coalition, which was formed to fight against new hotel construction at Turtle Bay, is circulating a petition to oppose the Malaekahana development.
Creighton Mattoon, a Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board member, said the plan doesn't have full community support, including from some La'ie residents, because it goes beyond the city's master plan that calls for limited growth in the communities from Ka'a'awa to Kahuku, which make up the Ko'olauloa District.
People want to keep the area rural and the BYUH plan calls for rezoning land from agriculture to urban, Mattoon said.
"It calls for a whole new town," he said. "Much of it would be moved into Gunstock Ranch, which is zoned agriculture and rural."