Castle & Cooke will only seek re-approval of two of the three parcels it originally tried to get reclassified to urban land: the Koa Ridge Makai and Waiawa parcels.
State high court upholds study for Koa Ridge plan
Castle & Cooke must evaluate impacts on land before building
Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii Inc. must first do an environmental review before proceeding with its plan to build up to 3,500 homes at Koa Ridge near Mililani, according to the state Supreme Court.
In a decision issued yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a 2003 Circuit Court decision overturning the state Land Use Commission's 2002 reclassification of 750 acres of Castle & Cooke land to urban use from agricultural for the project.
The Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter hailed yesterday's ruling as upholding good planning practices.
"This is a tremendous victory for protecting the remaining open space and farmlands in Central Oahu," said Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina.
"From our perspective the law is quite clear," he said. An applicant seeking a new land classification "has to complete environmental review before getting approval, especially for something as massive as this -- where it's going to impact traffic, water use and (reduction of) farmland."
Government decision-makers, such as the Land Use Commission, "should have all the facts on the table," he said.
Castle & Cooke President Harry Saunders III characterized the ruling as "not the Sierra Club winning, but Hawaii's people losing, because affordable housing is now farther off."
Castle & Cooke will return to the Land Use Commission this year with the required environmental studies, Saunders said. If it again gets approval, the earliest homes would be available at Koa Ridge would be 2010, a year later than the company had hoped, Saunders said.
Saunders said Castle & Cooke did present in-depth studies on how its proposed subdivision would affect Central Oahu during appearances before the Land Use Commission in 2002, though they were not packaged as a formal environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.
But yesterday's Supreme Court ruling emphasizes that an applicant for a reclassification supply an environmental assessment "at the earliest practicable time."
Mikulina said he thinks the ruling sets a good precedent and "certainly clarifies the process. This makes it pretty certain that you have to do the public environmental study before reclassifying land."
The state classifies all land in Hawaii in one of four categories: agricultural, conservation, urban or rural. County governments then zone the land within those classifications.
Saunders said he is optimistic that the Land Use Commission will again approve his company's plans, which he said essentially remain the same as five years ago:
» To build, over time, 3,000 to 3,500 homes on 750 acres, including some affordable homes and some townhomes or condominiums.
» To sell some land to the Wahiawa Hospital Association for a new Wahiawa General Hospital and a medical campus.
Castle & Cooke will only seek re-approval of two of the three parcels it originally tried to get reclassified to urban land -- the Koa Ridge Makai and Waiawa parcels, Saunders said yesterday. The company will not ask approval this year for a Koa Ridge Mauka parcel that the commission refused to reclassify in 2002, he said.
Several residents of Mililani, which also is a Castle & Cooke planned community, said yesterday that they hope a return to the Land Use Commission will give them more leverage to require the company to provide adequate roads, schools and basic infrastructure along with the new homes.
"We've already got 13,000 homes planned in Central Oahu, and traffic is just unbearable," said William Bass, vice chairman of the Mililani Neighborhood Board. "We'd like to see some requirements put on the development, now. Maybe they will have to make more concessions."
Mililani resident Mary Anne Selander said her greatest hope for "concurrency" is that an interchange between the H-2 freeway and Ka Uka Boulevard be completed all at once, instead of piecemeal.
The Land Use Commission is a nine-member body, appointed by the governor with Senate confirmation.