Tuesday, May 29, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

challenge plans for
Kawela disabled

The Council will vote on the
appropriation as part
of its budget

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Plans for an elderly- and disabled-care facility off Kamehameha Highway near Kawela Bay are running into opposition from neighbors.

ORI Anuenue Hale Inc. is seeking City Council approval for $2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant money from the 2001-02 fiscal year's budget for the facility.

Map ORI Anuenue Hale is affiliated with Opportunities for the Retarded Inc. and the Helemano Plantation, which teach job skills to the disabled at a site next to the Dole Pineapple Pavilion in Wahiawa. The Kawela site would target the elderly, the disabled and low-income people.

Neighbors living in subdivisions on the makai side of Kamehameha Highway across from the site say as well intentioned as it may be, the project is in the wrong place. They cite the area's remoteness, traffic worries, commercial aspects of the center and the loss of lands formerly used by truck farmers.

The Council is expected to vote tomorrow on the city's $1.1 billion operating budget, including the $2 million appropriation. The agency has received $1.5 million in block grants from the city's 2001 construction budget to purchase 43 acres of Campbell Estate property for the venture.

One part of the plan calls for a vocational training center where disadvantaged persons -- including both geriatrics and those with physical or learning disabilities -- can develop job skills. There would also be cabin-camping sites that would meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, a health and wellness activity center and a "modest" residential village.

Ann Higa, chief operating officer for ORI Anuenue Hale, said there would be no more than about 100 clients and 100 employees working from the new facility.

Elmer Manley, who has had a home in Kawela Kai for over 30 years, said you cannot get any farther from Honolulu without leaving Oahu, noting that the only health-care site that would be available would be at Kahuku Hospital, which is not full-service.

Sean Ginella, another Kawela Kai resident, is worried about the added traffic to a stretch of Kamehameha Highway already known for a "dead man's curve."

"There have been an average of 12 accidents a year on this stretch of road," Ginella said. "It's starting to become a situation like what Waianae has. If something goes wrong, it's just gridlock."

Sgt. Gary Nihipali of the Kahuku Police Station said the average number of accidents cited is about right, and acknowledged there is a "small, sharp bend" near the development. He added, however, that problems can be avoided if motorists drive cautiously through the area.

Higa said the main purpose of both a "food service facility" and sundry store will be to serve residents and camp guests, not outside visitors. Both will be placed within the grounds, not along the highway, she said.

"I wouldn't rule out some souvenir items, but it's not going to be a very big store," she said, noting that the Helemano facility is not a large moneymaker.

Higa said traffic improvements are being considered such as acceleration and deceleration times.

Ginella and his wife, Melissa, have collected a petition against the project with about 300 signatures.

"They have really good intentions and I appreciate what they're doing, but there's just got to be a better place for it," Ginella said.

City & County of Honolulu

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