[ COMMENTARY ]
Adequate infrastructure is a must in central Oahu
A Mililani resident explains why the Neighborhood Board wants home building in the area suspended
ALAN ARAKAWA, a vice president of Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii, recently wrote an opinion piece for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Sunday, April 30, 2006) promoting the development of additional residences in Central Oahu without any guarantees of necessary infrastructure.
He said the desire on the part of Neighborhood Board #25 and other Mililani residents to ensure adequate schools, roads, and other infrastructure to maintain quality of life is a "radical, end-of-the-spectrum" proposal. I suspect most residents tend to think of this infrastructure as necessary rather that "radical."
He is correct in saying that Central Oahu is a desirable place to live. However, the construction of an additional 17,000 residences in Central Oahu without guarantees of adequate infrastructure will certainly change that. We only need to look at what has been allowed to happen in Ewa/Kapolei to see what happens when development without provision for concurrent infrastructure is allowed.
In his article, Mr. Arakawa writes of the land and millions of dollars that developers "contribute" for schools, roads, and other necessary infrastructure. In reality, this cost is borne by the purchasers of residences in these developments, since developers add the cost of these "contributions" into the price of the new homes they are building. The cost of any infrastructure over and above this is borne by taxpayers.
This procedure can turn into a significant windfall for the developer if an entity, such as the state Department of Education for example, should later decide that some planned-for facilities are not needed. "Contributions" -- such as land -- might then be returned to a developer for development of even more residences. Mililani Town has numerous residences that were constructed and sold on lands that were originally "contributed" to the DOE. In Mililani Mauka, there are now approximately 800 residences under construction on 100 acres that were originally "contributed" to the DOE for educational uses.
Currently there are provisions for five additional elementary schools, three intermediate schools, and two high schools to support the additional 17,000 additional residences provided for in the Central Oahu Sustainable Communities Plan, which includes the areas of development Mr. Arakawa addresses in his article.
Sites have been set aside for three of the elementary schools and one intermediate school in Waiawa; no site has been determined for any of the remaining schools. Additionally, no opening date for any of these schools has been determined, so under the current system of planning and permitting, when they will be built -- if ever -- is anyone's guess. In Mililani and Mililani Mauka, our overcrowded schools, the proliferation of portable classrooms, and multitracking are the results of how the promise of educational facilities has turned out.
Neighborhood Board #25 has been and continues to be vilified as anti-development by those who have a vested interest in the profits generated by the development status-quo. This is nothing more than demagoguery.
The board has stated on numerous occasions, both in board meetings and in community forums, that it does not oppose development; the members understand that people need a place to live and that one of the areas for development is Central Oahu. What the board does oppose is development without timely, adequate supporting infrastructure.
Mililani/Mililani Mauka's experience with overcrowded schools, the nightmarish commute faced by all Oahu residents on the Ewa/Mililani side of the H-1/H-2 merge, and the tragic lessons of the school and regional traffic situations in Ewa/Kapolei resulting from the "check is in the mail" promise of infrastructure under the current system clearly demonstrate that we cannot continue the development business as usual.
We need to change the planning and permitting system, and it needs to happen before the character of Central Oahu is changed forever.
Doug Thomas is chairman of the planning and zoning committee of Neighborhood Board #25, which represents Mililani/Waipio/Melemanu.