Envision Laie is hotspot of disagreement in Koolauloa

Residents from outside the Lā‘ie and Mormon Church communities overwhelmingly oppose the current version of the KLSCP

Last night members of the Ko‘olau Loa communities from Kahuku to Ka‘a‘awa came to the Kahuku Intermediate School cafeteria to give testimony on Bill 47 before the Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee, chaired by Ikaika Anderson. If passed, the bill would put the Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan (KLSCP) into place.

With community members from Lā‘ie and/or from the Mormon community, as well as students from BYU Hawaii, dressed in sky blue “Envision Lā‘ie” shirts, and community members from Ka‘a‘awa, Kahana, Hau‘ula, Punalu‘u, some from Kahuku and even North Shore and Ko‘olau Poko residents dressed in green, it was obvious that the source of contention over the current draft of the bill is Hawaii Reserves, Inc (HRI), which manages and owns property affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the company’s “Envision Lā‘ie” development plan.

Before the hearing started, the Hawaii Independent talked with community members from around the Ko‘olau Loa region and beyond to try and get a sense of where people stand on the current KLSCP, which includes large portions of HRI’s plan, against the recommendations found in the community-led Plan Advisory Committee’s 2009 final report to the Department of Planning and Permitting. PAC changes to the plan are orange and clearly show that BYU expansion is opposed.

“What we want is the plan that was originally created,” said Ka‘a‘awa resident Brian Walsh. “That is sustainable. That is community. This is not. The current plan is not what most of the community outside Lā‘ie wants but, if it passes, the consequences will affect all of us.”

“I grew up in Kahuku and taught school for 25 years in Lā‘ie,” said Annetta Kinnicutt. “If they build another city here, which is what [Hawaii Reserves, Inc] want[s] to do, the traffic will be so much worse than it already is. It’s just not appropriate to have another city up here. It’s not sustainable in terms of land, water or traffic. Same goes for the resort expansion. It’s just too much.”

Caroline and Brent Przybille, transplants from British Columbia, see things differently. “It seems a bit selfish to me,” said Brent. “It’s like back where we’re from; some people build beautiful log cabins and as soon as they’re done they don’t want anyone else to touch a single tree. We need more houses here.”

Curt Sumida, a lifelong resident of the area who supports Bill 47, said he also feels there aren’t enough houses or opportunities for people living in Ko‘olau Loa. “I think this bill would be beneficial to most of the community: Mālaekahana, BYU, the Polynesian Cultural Center—all of these things could benefit the people if the bill passes. I haven’t seen most of the [KLSCP], but I’m sure that the [development] will be under control.”

Sumida, who works at Turtle Bay Resort, currently renovating rooms there, says he also supports the Turtle Bay expansion as he believes it will provide the area with more jobs.

Veronica Cannon, actually a resident of Makakilo, came because she worries that the development will be exactly the opposite of under control. “Being from the West-side, I’ve already been through this affordable homes business. You can’t trust the developers to follow through with what they promise because they know there’s no consequences if they don’t. There’s conditions placed on these building permits, but there is absolutely no enforcement of those conditions. That’s why we now have a bedroom community in Kapolei and still no jobs. That’s what they’re going to get here too. It’s going to hit them straight in the face.”

During testimony, most of the supporters, who outnumbered the opponents in body-count by roughly 4–1, remained silent and did not testify. One volunteer who was passing out the blue T-shirts admitted that he wasn’t from the area and didn’t know much about the plan itself.

By contrast, almost every one of the opponents of the bill present did testify against the bill, and there were more who couldn’t stay late enough to do so themselves (the hearing lasted until roughly 11pm). There were 57 opposing testimonies, which represented a wide range of community members from Ka‘a‘awa, Hau‘ula, Punalu‘u, Kahana and even some from outside the Ko‘olau Loa region, compared to 51 supporting testimonies.

“Kahalu‘u is the gateway to Ko‘olau Loa district,” testified Flora Obayashi, the recently elected chair of the Kahalu‘u Neighborhood Board. “Allowing increased development to Ko‘olau Loa will negatively impact our community as well due to increased traffic through Kahalu‘u and the precedent of changes to agricultural land for residential development.”

The Kahalu‘u Neighborhood Board passed a resolution in opposition to Bill 47, as did the Kailua and Mānoa Neighborhood Boards. The Ka‘a‘awa, Hau‘ula Punalu‘u and even Lā‘ie Point community associations are all opposed to the bill as are several North Shore community associations. There was even an Oahu MPO Citizen Advisory Committee member present, Andrea Anixt, who gave a fact-based critique of the KLSCP and the Department of Planning and Permitting during her testimony. Other opponents present included Choon James and Dr. Kioni Dudley.

If the bill makes it out of the Zoning and Planning Committee, it will go back before the full Council for second reading.