Sunday, October 10, 2004

Hilo residents fear
floods from project

HILO >> Samantha Taylor of Hilo told a Hawaii County Council committee that her back yard a mile above downtown Hilo floods during heavy rains.

"It's like walking into a bog. Your feet sink into the mud," she told the Council's Planning Committee Tuesday. An old lava tube is filled with water for months, she said.

Amy Mahealani Jones, from the same area, sent a letter telling how fish and tadpoles live in ponds on the vacant land near her house.

The two were among many who fear increased flooding from the proposed University Heights housing and commercial development on 172 acres that include a flood plain of the Alenaio Stream.

In response, the committee voted to hold a public hearing on the proposed development at 6 p.m., Oct. 18, in the Council chambers.

As Hilo has grown in two wings, Kaumana and Waiakea, developers avoided an often-flooded area between them above Komohana Street.

Western United Life Assurance Co. of Washington is proposing to develop 600 homes and apartment units, 150 hotel-like rental units, and 350,000 square feet of commercial space on 123 acres facing Komohana. They would leave 49 low-lying acres undeveloped to provide for flooding.

The developer's representative, former Mayor Steve Yamashiro, says the project will include measures such as dry wells and ponding areas to control water runoff it generates.

But Yamashiro told the Planning Committee that flooding from Alenaio Stream and other water sources that start off the property are not the responsibility of the developer.

Resident Cheryl Reis said she submitted a petition with 500 signatures against the project.

Councilman-elect Donald Ikeda, who takes office in December, said he spoke to 2,000 residents while campaigning. He found only two residents in favor of the project, he told the committee.

Although the project originally envisioned several 10-story buildings, causing additional complaints from residents, a new height limit of four stories is now written into the bill to authorize the project.

Residents are also worried about traffic impacts.

County of Hawaii



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