Build schools
first, panel tells

Castle & Cooke says that could
threaten 3 housing tracts
planned for Central Oahu

By Diana Leone

The state Land Use Commission is ready to approve a major housing development on former farmland in Central Oahu but wants the developer to first build the schools needed to serve future residents.

It is a condition that could jeopardize the project, said Harry Saunders III, president of Castle & Cooke Homes, which wants to build homes on three tracts above Mililani.

"Obviously, that would have an impact on the price of homes," he said. "This is a precedent-setting amendment that has never been imposed on developers before."

Yesterday, the commission drafted a proposal to redistrict 762 acres from agricultural to urban use so that Castle & Cooke could build 3,237 new single- and multifamily homes.


But before the redistricting is granted, the builder must agree to certain conditions, including not opening new housing to residents until "reasonable and appropriate" public schools have been built to serve them, according to the proposal.

If approved June 21, when the commission meets again, the redistricting would be the first step in Castle & Cooke's plan to build homes on its Koa Ridge Makai and Waiawa tracts.

But Saunders said the company, which owns the former pineapple lands, would reassess its plans if the commission insists on the school requirement.

The company also requested redistricting for a third tract, Koa Ridge Mauka, which would have doubled the number of housing units. But the commission appears unlikely to approve redistricting for that 485-acre parcel.

The schools provision was added because of concerns about school crowding in Central Oahu, even before these Castle & Cooke projects.

State Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen said "ballpark" figures for building schools would be $25 million for an elementary, $40 million for a middle school and $80 million or more for a high school.

It is estimated that the development Castle & Cooke has planned would generate enough students for one elementary and middle school and part of a high school.

Knudsen called linking new housing development to building new schools "a favorable model" and said there may be a number of ways the Education Department and developers could cooperate.

"If we can work it out, can have it (home and school construction) done concurrently, it would be in everyone's best interest," Knudsen said.

Dan Davidson of the Land Use Research Foundation said other developers will be watching what happens in this case.

"All the major developers are committed to working to get schools built on a 'fair share' basis (by contributing land or money)," said Davidson, whose group represents landowners. "They're not saying, 'We don't want anything to do with it,' but this new wrinkle creates control issues, cost issues and feasibility issues that need to be looked at."

Also affected by the redistricting would be Pacific Health Community Inc., which wants to build a new Wahiawa Hospital and medical complex on 210 acres of Koa Ridge Makai it would buy from Castle & Cooke. The segment would be the first phase developed, with the first medical facilities ready by 2003.

The first 100 homes in the Koa Ridge Makai segment would be available for occupancy by 2007 at the earliest, Saunders said.

Other commission provisions under consideration would require developers to:

>> Participate in funding, design and construction of transportation improvements, including dedication of rights of way, donation of lands for park-and-ride facilities, establishment of bikeways and traffic studies that show how increases in traffic caused by the development will be mitigated.

>> Prepare a water master plan that outlines estimated water use and the sources, storage and transmission lines needed to provide it.

Despite the conditions, the Sierra Club still objects to redistricting. Director Jeff Mikulina told the commission that building homes in prime agriculture lands would contribute to urban sprawl, overtax available water supplies and worsen traffic and school crowding.

The Mililani Neighborhood Board had asked for stronger requirements that the developers be responsible for traffic and school crowding effects.

All parties will make their closing arguments in the case, which began last fall, when the commission meets at 8:30 a.m. June 21 in Room 405 of the Leiopapa A Kamehameha building, 235 S. Beretania St.

Should the commission grant redistricting at the state level, the developers still would need city zoning, subdivision and construction permits, and to get water permits.

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