Review ordered
for Koa Ridge site

A judge says the state should
have examined environmental
impacts of the planned project

A state agency should not have reclassified 762 acres of Central Oahu farmland for urban use without a formal environmental review of its potential effects, a state judge has ruled.


The state Land Use Commission now must revisit its decision regarding Castle & Cooke Homes' proposed Koa Ridge development, which is to include a 3,200-home subdivision in Waipio and Waiawa, plus medical and commercial development.

The commission approved the pineapple fields for urban use in June 2002, following 10 months of hearings at which some Oahu residents questioned the Koa Ridge project's potential impacts on groundwater supply and crowding of schools and roadways.

The Sierra Club hailed the ruling Tuesday by Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hifo as a "major victory" in its campaign to slow the conversion of agricultural land to housing and commercial uses. The organization had appealed the commission's ruling to Circuit Court.

"We only have one chance at ensuring smart growth on the remaining farmlands in Central Oahu. Once they are developed, they are gone forever," said Jeff Mikulina, state Sierra Club director. "This is going to give us time to breathe and question whether there is financial and community support for the project."

But Castle & Cooke President Harry Saunders III said yesterday that the main effect of the judge's order will be that his company will present its nearly complete Koa Ridge environmental impact statement first to the Land Use Commission instead of the Honolulu Zoning Commission.

"We were somewhat surprised" at the judge's order, Saunders said. "We thought we were following the rules. An environmental assessment has never been required before at this stage, but if the judge rules that way, we'll go with it."

There are substantial issues about the effects of the development that should require the Land Use Commission to hold hearings, Mikulina said.

Saunders said he doesn't think additional hearings will be needed.

Saunders said he will meet this week with Pacific Health Community Inc. about its revised timeline for building a new Wahiawa Hospital and medical complex on 210 acres.

Given the permitting required, the earliest homes in the Koa Ridge subdivision might be available would be 2007, Saunders said.

The Sierra Club believes that Oahu's housing demand can be met by building on land already earmarked for development, including: Honolulu's urban core, Kapolei and 1,500 acres of Central Oahu already approved for 13,000 units of housing, Mikulina said.


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