KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A developer's plans to build on more than 1,500 acres of West Oahu farmland has gained unanimous support from the Kapolei Neighborhood Board.
D.R. Horton-Schuler Division's "Ho'opili" development would be built over a 20 year period on land that includes Aloun Farms. But the developer said more than 250 acres of the farmland will still exist when the building is done.
"What we're trying to do through our urban agriculture initiative is really look at ways in which we can integrate it, and give people the opportunity to grow their own food in their backyard and live a lifestyle that's different than any other place in Hawaii," said Cameron Nekota, D.R. Horton-Schuler Division vice president.
Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms, is overseeing the urban agriculture program. He said it was the first time a developer has included agriculture in its building plans.
"If you lose ag, you lose community," Okimoto said. "And that's what I feel this development is trying to do, is create community with ag involved, and to me, it brings us back to the old days of agriculture."
But the Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance bemoans the possible loss of prime farmland that will be impossible to replace.
"Build on the more difficult-to-farm areas," said alliance member Stuart Scott. "Don't take the prime soils and cover it over forever, because once you build a house on it, it's not going to come off for generations."
More than a hundred construction workers showed up at the neighborhood board meeting to show their support for the development, with D.R. Horton said will create 27,000 construction and consultant-related jobs.
"Once those jobs are done, we'll have 7,000 permanent jobs, which will give more families in Ewa the ability to live and work in the same community," Nekota said, "and that's what I think Ho'opili is all about. Permanent jobs."
"It's not just about putting food on the table with a job now, although that's really important," Stuart countered. "It's about having your children being able to have food, being able to grow food here in the islands. That's true food security."
Even though supporters made up the overwhelming majority at the Kapolei Neighborhood Board meeting, opponents promised to be out in force when the state Land Use Commission hears the proposal June 30.