New Hope Leeward church eyeing Kunia farmland

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Apr 16 2013 05:00:00 PM HST

It's a massive undertaking by a leeward O'ahu church to plant their roots in agricultural land.

HONOLULU -

The New Hope Leeward church is getting ambitious.

Its lease at Waipahu Town Center runs out next February, so the church wants to raise $28 million to create the vision of what it calls the “Promised Land."

"Two years ago God gave us a dream to once again enlarge our tents by pursuing land that function not only the location of a new larger ministry center but also an educational outreach to the community," said Rev.  Mike Lwin in a video posted on the church website.

Plans call for a worship center, and a K-12 Christian school and college. It would be built on 203 acres of land the church still needs to buy.

But there's a catch. It's Class-A,  prime agriculture land along the Diamond Head side of Kunia Road.

"I hate to see more agriculture land paved over. In the past 50 years, 50 percent of our ag lands have been lost, so that is the biggest concern," said Rep. Jessica Wooley, chairwoman of the House Agriculture committee.

The church is asking the city for a zoning change.

Church facilities would cover less than 15 acres--and would bypass a lengthy land use commission process.

The church has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the state's Agribusiness Development Corporation. It’s a plan to partner with the agency to keep that 150 acres in agriculture.

"It they are going to commit to agriculture, that's great! How do we make sure they follow through at the end of the day," said Wooley.

The nearby Equine 808 large animal rescue center says the church also approached it about a possible partnership.

“I thought for some of our horses who are hard to adopt or older, it would be a perfect marriage for us. So, we are hoping they call us back," said owner Betina Parker.

The city has said the church project will need to complete an Environmental Assessment and go before the planning commission and the council for the zoning change.

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