‘Keep the Country Country’ versus ‘Envision Laie’ city at Malaekahana, Kahuku
The Ko’olau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan ( KSCP) has always been a land-use document that preserves and protects the scenic view planes, watersheds, natural resources as well as the rural charm of the Ko’olau Loa communities.
This deliberate plan in the Oahu General Plan was set in the 1970s.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann drastically altered this KSCP before he resigned as Mayor to run for Governor in 2010. His administration – David Tanoue ( Director of Department of Planning & Permitting) and Kirk Caldwell ( Managing Director and Acting Mayor) unilaterally inserted ‘Envision Laie’ subdivision into the KSCP, much to the disgust of many members in the Ko’olau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan Advisory Committee and others throughout Oahu. Other Plans such as the Ewa Development Plan also suffered this same ‘end-around’ tactic from the Hannemann Administration.
The KSCP controversy is a story of bureaucratic power and grassroots struggles that could outdo any popular Korean drama.
Here are some of the many concerns in the public conversations:
Traffic! Kam Hwy is a 2-lane road from Kahalu’u to Haleiwa. Widening Kam Hwy will inevitably displace local owners and small businesses along Kam Hwy. The costs to taxpayers, should Kam Hwy become a 4-lane Hwy, are guestimated at $340 Billion.
The open space, rural charm, and local lifestyle on this region are the last remnant of island living. Oahu residents and tourists alike love and flock to this iconic part of Oahu. ‘Keep the Country Country’ is a golden goose of Oahu’s tourism industry.
Developers want to segment and only focus on their project in this region. However, the cumulative impacts of thousands of new residents must be considered. Traffic congestion is a 800 pound gorilla; no wordsmith can sugar-coat this impact.
Recently the Star Advertiser reported Steve Hoag, Hawaii Reserves’ spokesman as saying “94% of the region is undeveloped” as part of its rationale to cement 300 acres of farmlands. This soundbite continues to be met with ridicule and disbelief. Unless developers wish to blow up the Ko’olau mountains, 94% of the region will probably never be developed.
“Gentrification” – the process in which massive developers push out the less-affluent in communities. The less-affluent are unable to keep up with the rising costs of property taxes, real estate, rents and other basic modern living expenses. This scenario is playing out at the Kahuku Plantation Camp where about 31 old-timer plantation residents are in a fierce eviction fight with their new owner, Continental Pacific, LLC from Florida. The attorney representing Continental Pacific, LLC was the campaign manager for incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Then, unrighteous dominion prompted then-Ko’olau Loa Neighborhood #28 Vice-Chair Richard Fale to deny those who opposed ‘Envision Laie’ the right to testify. The Honolulu Neighborhood Board Commission eventually nullified the neighborhood board’s adopted resolution in support of ‘Envision Laie’. They have since changed the color of their yellow t-shirts to baby blue.
Although Steven Wheelwright, President of the BYU-Hawaii, has publicly testified that ‘Envision Laie’ has overwhelming support, it does not appear to be so. Those who appear in blue shirts are mostly employees, administrators, students, and relatives. There have been complaints of the Envision Laie Team inviting volunteer missionaries on temporary assignments to stack these meetings.
Although Hawaii Reserves R. Eric Beaver projects that they have overwhelming support, neighboring community associations such as the Waikane, Hau’ula, Kahuku, Ka’a’awa, Punalu’u, Sunset have testified against ‘Envision Laie’. The Kahalu’u, Kane’ohe, Manoa, and the North Shore Neighborhood Boards are also opposed. Environmental groups like Defend Oahu Coalition, Keep the North Shore Country, Surfrider Foundation – Oahu Chapter and many other groups have spoken against altering the Ko’olau Loa Sustainable Plan. This is Hawaii Reserves’ Blue Shirts versus the rest of Oahu.
There are questions as to why the expansion of Brigham Young University -Hawaii would require a regional shopping center, light and heavy industrial parks, professional buildings, market-value homes and so forth.
Although the Envision Laie Team continues to market the project with ‘homes’, HRI has not revealed the prices of such homes. There is no information on whether it is leasehold or fee simple, or has conditions such as ‘buyback’ and so forth. The enticement of ‘jobs’ also appears contradictory to many who hav witnessed mass firings of long-time employees who were then replaced by mainland transplants.
A Brief Summary:
It’s only natural for developers to push for their own agenda. Aggressive and manipulated social media propaganda is part of the game.
However, the fiduciary duty of the County of Honolulu is to professionally and boldly consider the merits and facts presented to them by the developers and their lobbyists. The Department of Planning and Permitting has failed in its fiduciary stewardship to the public thus far in this important process.
There are many more discussions to be had in this process.
In another arena, there are persistent complaints and angst over Hawaii Reserves, Inc using “the Church” in an effort to discourage church members from raising questions and voicing their concerns. This is unrighteous dominion. Hawaii Reserves, Inc cannot claim it is solely a Hawaii for-profit corporation when it does not want to contribute funds to the community and then turn around to use the church card to their sole advantage whenever it is convenient.
I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but I am a member who can emphatically state the LDS Church values basic principles of ‘free agency’ and being a ‘good neighbor’. Church members are always encouraged to participate according to their own will and dictates of their conscience to improve their communities.
Every citizen, a member or not, has the God-given freedom to be a free agent. We invite all to diligently study, analyze, and participate in this democratic process!