CENTRAL OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After more than a decade of challenges, the Honolulu City Council could give its final approval to a controversial development in Central Oahu this week. Critics of the Koa Ridge plan, however, are still trying to rally opposition. Sierra Club members pounded the pavement on Monday, reaching out to families in Mililani Mauka.
"I care about this not only because I live in Mililani and it directly affects me, but also because it's prime agricultural land," said Sierra Club member Lisa Grandinetti.
Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii wants to build 3,500 new homes on agricultural land in Waipio. The project would also include a hotel, retail space, parks and a medical center. Koa Ridge will create roughly 1,000 construction jobs and 2,300 permanent positions, according to the developer.
"There are some benefits in terms of the fact that the project will provide more housing and create jobs, but again, I have strong reservations because we're talking about a massive development," said Councilman Ron Menor.
"It will make the commute from Mililani to Ala Moana two hours, according to the federally-funded Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization. That's crazy!" said Anthony Aalto, chair of Sierra Club Oahu.
Castle & Cooke disputes that claim, but the company has pledged to spend more than $100 million on traffic improvements along Kamehameha Highway, Ka Uka Boulevard, Pineapple Road and the Waipio interchange.
"When that traffic on the H-2 gets to the merge, what's going to happen to all the people from the west side? H-1 is just going to turn into a parking lot. We already have the most congested freeways in the nation," said Aalto.
The Sierra Club wants the council to delay its vote in hopes of shifting the development closer to Honolulu's rail line to address the traffic concerns.
"Sierra Club has suggested to both to the city and the state that they do the hard work to identify properties that are owned by the state and the city along the rail route, and that the housing that's proposed for Koa Ridge go down alongside the rail line," explained Aalto.
"Being that this is fairly late in the vote, I would think that it would be very difficult, but not impossible," said Council Chairman Ernie Martin.
The full council is set to decide the project's fate at its meeting on November 13.
If the plan is approved, groundbreaking would be set for 2015. The Sierra Club does have a pending legal challenge against the project.