Keep country country: Plans to split up historic North Shore ranch spur concern

MOKULEIA,OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A battle is brewing over a plan to split up an historic Oahu ranch and sell dozens of parcels to new owners who could build homes on land zoned for agriculture.

A California-based developer will present the draft environmental impact statement for the controversial proposal at a special North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting on Wednesday.

The project includes a new hydroponic farm and an expanded mango orchard. Cattle ranching and equestrian activities would continue on the 2,721-acre property.

There would also be 70 lots where buyers could build a farm dwelling limited to 5,000 square feet. The developer would provide each lot owner with a stipend averaging $12,000 to plant an orchard that covers at least one acre, depending on the parcel size.

"The acreage of the property is vast and the footprint we're leaving with the development is approximately 1 percent in terms of the actual structures that would be built," said Dave Eadie, Kennedy Wilson's senior vice president of entitlement and development.

Many community members, however, are still skeptical. Mokuleia resident Rebecca Lee Green is following in her father's footsteps by fighting to preserve the ranch.

"We're not for any subdividing at all. We want it to stay as it is. It's one of the last legacy ranches on the island. Also, if you look at this side of the island, we're the last really to be touched when it comes to development," she said.

Residents also have concerns about cultural sites, a new wastewater treatment plant, and the private water system from the ranch that they rely on. Eadie said the possible impacts and proposed mitigation measures were addressed in the draft EIS.

"This is not going to help our community in any way shape or form. This is a pure profit-driven investment," said Mokuleia resident Kaneila Schultz.

The company expects to spend about $65 million on the project and anticipates selling the lots for at least $1 million each.

"Who can afford to buy those homes? It's only going to be catered to a very small clientele, mainly rich people," said North Shore Neighborhood Board member Thomas Shirai Jr.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture dropped its objections after revisions to the plan.

"Without the farm dwellings and selling the lots, you don't have any of the other matters that are coming to the table here and having the robust and viable agricultural program that we are proposing," said Eadie.

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