Large scale development planned for Laie
LAIE—A large scale development called Envision Laie has been proposed for the Gunstock Ranch and Malaekahana region, located between Laie and Kahuku. The development, which is supported by Brigham Young University, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Hawaii Reserves Inc. (HRI), is looking to build 1,260 new residential dwellings as well as large shopping centers and other developments on agricultural zoned land in the currently natural and undisturbed Gunstock Ranch area.
The group known as Envision Laie, which began in August 2008, describes itself as a diverse group of residents and stakeholders of Laie, Kahuku, Hauula, and Koolau Loa who are working together to study Laie and plan for its future possibilities. Those in support of the development are currently trying to have the 1999 sustainable community plan revised, something they have been working on for over two years. In the plan, Malaekahana is zoned as agricultural land allowing no to limited growth in the North Shore area.
Although the group states that their mission is planning a future that protects quality of life and emphasizes the values of the people who live in the Koolau Loa region, many North Shore residents feel that the development would only hurt the community and cause future deterioration of the quality of life in the area. The Defend Oahu Coalition stated on their website that this development in Laie “threatens communities along Koolau Loa and the North Shore with the dangerous effects of large scale development.”
Defend Oahu Coalition co-chair Tim Vandeveer said, “They want to create an entirely new community and town between Kahuku and Laie. It is a lot bigger than originally proposed.”
In addition to the proposed 1,260 residences that would be a combination of various types of housing including low density apartments, the development would include a Malaekahana Neighborhood Market with grocery and retail space, as well as expansion of Laie Commercial Center into Laie Village Center—creating space for office, retail, entertainment, and other uses.
It’s estimated that if the proposed development is successful, with household sizes staying the same, the Laie area population of not quite 5,000 would more than double to over 10,000.
In an interview with KGMB9 on September 29, HRI CEO Eric Beaver said BYU wants to see a building growth of 5 to 7 percent every year and that “there is no set number for where they want to end up.”
When asked how much in terms of extra units BYU is going to be asking for, Beaver responded: “Well right now on the city plan there is 550 units already designated behind the university. What we’re asking for is to take the 550 units, that designation and move it over to Malaekahana, which is immediately north and adjacent to Laie, and increasing that number up to 1,200 units.”
Critics of the proposed development argue that the mission of Envision Laie does not reflect its actions. Envision Laie states on its website that its goal is to create a sustainable plan for the Koolau Loa region that reflects its residents’ culture, values, and wishes with attention to the unique aspects of the land and its people. However, a sustainable community plan approved in 1999 does not allow for development in Malaekahana.
The Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan states in chapter one that Koolau Loa is projected to maintain its country character and to experience very little growth over the plan’s 20-year planning horizon. The edict is also consistent with the goal of the General Plan for Oahu.
However, not all Laie residents are against the idea of growth and development. Envision Laie has stated that “studies and surveys were conducted among residents to find a solution allowing residents to live and work in Laie for years to come,” and that they did receive positive support and feedback from about 600 residents of the area. Envision Laie includes issues such as affordable housing, traffic, drainage, jobs, retail, and others that relate to economic, environmental, social, and cultural sustainability as part of their objectives for sustainable growth.
At a community meeting in April, Beaver said: “Most people are driving out of Koolau Loa to go to work. Early findings show that BYU-Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center are the two main economic catalysts in this area, and it’s important that they remain viable.”
He explained that other possible solutions may include a hotel, town center, a business park/light industrial area in Malaekahana, and convenience retail if housing is built there to support that community, as well as experimental agriculture and alternative energy.
Community board meetings are still being held to address the issue. Envision Laie’s website is http://envisionlaie.com. A petition against Envision Laie has been posted on the Defend Oahu Coalition website and is being signed by Oahu residents hoping to stop the development.