EWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The future of West Oahu is up for debate. A long-range plan for Ewa is prompting fears about development, traffic and fresh food.
Opponents of the Ewa Development Plan update held a town hall meeting on Monday, bringing in experts in several different fields.
"Our traffic is going to come to a standstill even with rail. We're going to lose 31% of our best farmland, the best farmland in the state," said Kioni Dudley of the Makakilo-Kapolei-Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board.
The controversy centers around the Hoopili project. The developer wants to build nearly 12,000 affordable homes during the next 20 years on land previously classified for agriculture.
"We have much better land, in our estimation, which is above Hoopili in the Kunia area. Thousands of acres are being reserved, as well as 3,000 acres within the Ewa Plain itself, so we feel there is adequate land for agriculture," said Kathy Sokugawa of the Department of Permitting and Planning.
But critics said the Hoopili land is special.
"The high levels of radiation and warm weather and ideal soil means that you can grow some crops that you could not grow elsewhere. So for example, melons, pumpkins," said Hector Valenzuela of UH Manoa's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Other concerns involve water use, cultural issues and traffic gridlock.
"Even if you wanted to, you cannot fit (everyone) into the proposed rail system so there is going to be a lot of additional traffic. Where is it going to go? The commute already is very bad and very long," said Panos Prevedouros, a civil and environmental engineering professor at UH Manoa.
"We're trying to keep as many jobs as we can or attract new jobs in Ewa so that people don't have to make that commute and that will help, as well as other strategies such as carpooling, working from your home," said Sokugawa. "We're a growing population. our children need someplace to go and I think we can use the land more intelligently than perhaps we have in the past, but certainly we need to accommodate future generations and we think we're doing it in a sustainable fashion."
The city council's zoning and planning committee will take up the issue at a hearing on June 27.