Scaled back development plan for Laie still garners vocal opposition

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A development plan for Oahu's North Shore is still pitting neighbors against each other, despite a new compromise that's advancing at the City Council.

Those on both sides of the emotional debate spoke out about the proposal to build 400 homes on land in Laie during a special meeting Monday.

The Committee on Planning listened to nearly three hours of testimony on proposed changes to Bill 1. For years, the council has struggled to update the Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan, which provides a vision for the future for the rural region.

Laie resident Charlene Latu offered tearful testimony on the proposal.

"I stand here as a mother of three, dreaming and wishing that one day I'll be able to have a home myself here. This plan kind of gave me the light," said the Brigham Young University-Hawaii employee.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson's amendments would shift the community growth boundary and support 200 homes on 50 acres in North Laie along with 200 workforce homes on BYU-Hawaii's campus for its planned expansion.

"BYU's aggressive growth strategy is undermining our ability to grow our own food. By expanding on agricultural land, we are significantly reducing our resiliency and self-sufficiency," said Jodi Malinoski, of Sierra Club Oahu.

Hawaii Reserves Inc. originally wanted to build 875 homes and have light industrial development on 300 acres at Malaekahana. Even though the project has been scaled back, opponents are still skeptical about the affordability of the homes.

"People that live in the community, that have family, they're not making the salary that's going to pay for those affordable homes, and that's a big concern for me," said Laie resident Jinendra Jinadasa.

HRI's president said they're still working on details about prices and affordability.

"Those kinds of details will be forthcoming when we sit down and start working with our community and with planners and architects and so forth and the development community to figure out how do we build something that truly is affordable," said Eric Beaver.

Critics also include some Native Hawaiians with ancestral ties to the land.

"They make like they own everything, they're the absolute decision makers, but then they forget that get Hawaiians that have a vested interest through the kingdom," said Harry Wasson.

The Committee on Planning voted to advance the bill with the amendments. The measure will head to the full council for a second reading and a public hearing.

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