KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A plan for a new industrial park in Kailua is stirring some controversy. That's because the developer wants to build it right next to the largest wetland area in the state.
This 23 acres would eventually turn into nine warehouses and a base yard for light industrial companies to work. The development would be located at the current Hawaiian Earth Products site on Kapaa Quarry Road. It is part of the Kawainui Marsh which is a special management area.
Opponents point out the landowners questionable past. Its tenants have been cited and fined for illegal grading and stockpiling. There is also a state investigation accusing a tenant of illegally dumping oils and chemicals.
"I see evidence of oil spills. I don't know how any of the other government departments that go out there to look can't see it it's so obvious," said Vern Hinsvark, Kailua Neighborhood Board Member who opposes the development.
The landowner, Kapaa I LLC., says it's all been a wakeup call. They hired a sustainable design firm to help build a Leed Development incorporating environmentally friendly features. The area used to be a landfill so they will seal it up and filter the water that runs off.
"I would argue that's a much better situation than what's there now with this untreated unfiltered water that runs straight from the landfill into the marsh," said Ikaika Anderson, Honolulu City Councilmember who represents the area.
The City Council has unanimously approved the rezoning and a special use permit to clean up prior violations. Furthermore they've said the Windward side needs more industrial property.
"You can balance the needs of businesses and the needs of the environment. One does not have to suffer. Businesses don't have to suffer for the environment. The environment doesn't have to suffer for businesses to be successful," said Susan King, Kapaa I LLC.
Kapaa I also says it will educate tenants about the Kawainui Marsh and have rules to follow.
However the Kailua neighborhood board opposes the development saying the landowners can't even control the current tenants.
"If they can't take care of the land they have now I question they'll be able to maintain it on a long term basis," said Hinsvark.
"I feel like they can trust us. I hope they know they can trust us and we're going to show them that they can," said King.
Councilman Anderson vouched for the King family saying they have organized numerous community clean-ups of Kawainui Marsh and positive environmental stewards.
"I have faith this family is going to do what they said they were going to do," said Anderson.
"It's like a mask. They do all these good things, but that doesn't allow them to do the bad things they do," said Hinsvark.
Kapaa I says it's still about three to four years before any buildings go up.