Friday, September 7, 2001

This field just north of Costco in Waipio would be developed
into housing under the proposed Koa Ridge project.

State rejects
development delay

Land impact worries fail to stall
a plan for Central Oahu housing

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

An attempt to stall Castle & Cooke Homes' request to develop up to 7,500 Central Oahu homes was denied yesterday by the state Land Use Commission.

The commission voted 6-1 to reject the Sierra Club Hawaii chapter's motion to place on hold Castle & Cooke's petition for the massive Koa Ridge project until the developer formally submits an environ- mental assessment to the panel. The decision clears the way for proceedings on whether to allow the company to convert 1,250 acres of agricultural lands to urban designation.

The Sierra Club and Mililani Neighborhood Board have raised a number of issues including increased traffic, water availability, lost agricultural lands and excessive urbanization.

Jeff Mikulina, director for the Sierra Club Hawaii chapter, told commissioners it would be improper to make a decision on Koa Ridge without considering all available information about the project's potential environmental effects.

Mikulina said the environmental impact process should be triggered because Castle & Cooke intends to do construction work beneath a state or county road at Koa Ridge. Other state rules require that environmental studies must take place "at the earliest practical time," Mikulina said.

Castle & Cooke attorney Dickson Lee argued that an environmental assessment is not required at the Land Use Commission level, but only when the developer goes to the City Council for zoning approvals at a later point.

It is the city, and not the Land Use Commission, that must oversee the details of a project such as roads and other infrastructure, Lee said.

Mikulina countered that the commission is responsible for looking at Koa Ridge as a part of the entire island's land use picture and therefore is in a better position to assess environmental impacts.

The Koa Ridge project is broken up into three sections -- Koa Ridge Makai (571.5 acres) mauka of the Waipio Costco; Koa Ridge Mauka (485.5 acres) north of Mililani Memorial Park; and Waiawa (190.9 acres) between Mililani Memorial and the idle Ewa by Gentry project. Koa Ridge Makai includes plans for a 210-acre medical complex spearheaded by the Wahiawa Hospital Association.

The state Office of Planning is recommending approval of the Koa Ridge Makai and Waiawa segments only. The application process is expected to last more than a month.

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