220-room Laie Marriott permit a key hurdle for Envision Laie development plans

HALEIWA—The struggle to “keep the country country” on Oahu’s North Shore is currently at odds with developers’ plans on several fronts. Proposed hotel developments already include Andy Anderson’s 80-room replica of the historic Haleiwa Hotel and the 3,500 room expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort. And in the rural town of Laie, a 220-room Marriott hotel is part of the project known as Envision Laie.

A public hearing regarding a permit application for the Laie hotel, which is a re-development of the original 50-room Laie Inn that was torn down last year, has been announced by the Department of Planning and Permitting. The hearing will take place at the Kahuku Public Library on Tuesday, February 15 at 10:30 a.m.

Envision Laie is a project guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that will, most significantly, create a new bunch of subdivisions collectively called Malaekahana just west of Laie that will rival the populations of the other towns in the Koolau Loa region. This massive plan will most likely require widening parts of Kamehameha Highway, which will require condemning some properties along that road, as well as seizing some kuleana lands for roads that connect Brigam Young University Hawaii to the proposed developments.

The population increase will be considerable—BYUH alone expects to increase its student enrollment from 2,780 to over 5,000 in the coming years.

Koolau Loa residents have raised concerns that because of the growth of BYUH and the planned Envision Laie development, the local community is being squeezed out of affordable housing and jobs.

“Hundreds of new BYUH students and families already flooding into rural Koolau Loa is causing an even worse affordable housing Crisis,” said KC, an outspoken North Shore activist who is against the Envision Laie plan. “BYUH has built no new dormitories, but continues to bring in even more students. This pushes local people out of low-income affordable rentals up-and-down Koolau Loa.”

According to Envision Laie’s website, the Special Management Area (SMA) permit is one of the last permits required before work can begin on the hotel.

The Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program describes the SMA permit as part of a regulatory system that is the “cornerstone” of the program. The SMA permit system provides guidance through State law for managing coastal development, and is necessary for the proposed Marriott because of the large hotel’s proximity to the shoreline.

Each of Hawaii’s counties has its own guidelines and rules for SMA permits—each indicating where the SMA permits system regulates development within a geographically defined area extending from the shoreline inland. Within each county, SMA boundaries may range from about 100 yards to several miles inland from the shoreline.

Envision Laie describes the hotel’s theme as “contemporary Hawaiian,” and the buildings will be staggered between one, three, and four stories in an attempt to stay within the city code’s 40-foot height limit.

The development has been estimated to cost approximately $25 million to build, and will measure approximately 150,000 sqaure feet.

The new Marriott is expected to open in September 2013, coinciding with the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 50th anniversary.

Community members are invited to attend the hearing.

To learn more about SMA permits, click here