State land use panel rejects plan for 12,000 homes on Ewa farms
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 29, 2009
In a rare move, the state Land Use Commission rejected yesterday a developer’s push to urbanize 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land in Ewa to create a new community of nearly 12,000 homes.
The commission voted 5-3 to declare the petition by D.R. Horton-Schuler Division "deficient," saying the developer had not followed the rules by spelling out an incremental development plan for its Ho’opili project. But it said Horton could fix its petition and try again.
"Hallelujah!" Kioni Dudley, president of Friends of Makakilo and leader of the opposition, declared after the vote. "It’s a great victory. It’s a victory for the aina. I hope the setback to the developer is permanent."
Dudley had some powerful support at yesterday’s hearing, including the state Office of Planning, which argued forcefully against the project, and the heads of the state Transportation and Agriculture departments. The commissioners also heard hours of testimony from members of the public, most of them pleading to keep the land growing fruits and vegetables for local consumption.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A proposal for building 12,000 homes on what is described as the best agricultural land on Oahu goes back before the state Land Use Commission tomorrow.
D.R. Horton-Schuler Division is planning a development known as Ho’opili on 1,500 acres makai of the H-1 freeway, between Waipahu and Kapolei, and is petitioning the state to change the land’s designation from agricultural to urban use. The developer, which has been presenting its case over several months, expects to wrap up its arguments tomorrow, and the opposition will soon get its turn at bat.
"This is the highest-producing agricultural land in the state, which we’re going to need for our future survival," said Kioni Dudley, president of the Friends of Makakilo, who heads the opposition as an intervener in the Land Use Commission case. "Even without Ho’opili, 33,000 homes have already been zoned and are ready to be built in the Leeward area. The traffic that Ho’opili is going to cause is going to be like a parking lot. There’s no way to solve that problem even with rail."
The Ho’opili project calls for creating a community the size of Hawaii Kai or Mililani to complete the build-out of the Kapolei-Ewa area as the "Second City." Although the land is designated agricultural by the state, it falls within the urban growth boundary of the city’s Ewa Development Plan, and the city rail transit project is slated to run through the community.
The land is now used for farming by three tenants, including Aloun Farms, which provides a substantial amount of the local supply of crops, including sweet corn, beans, melons, pumpkin and lettuce. Bob Bruhl, vice president of development for Horton-Schuler, said the project will be built over 20 years and that "farming can continue during the incremental build-out of Ho’opili."