Debate over development rages on
Development divides Oahu's Windward and North Shore communities.
Tuesday evening, hundreds of residents gathered together to hammer home their idea of future growth for Koolau Loa -- the area north of Kaneohe to Haleiwa on the North Shore.
Kahuku, in the heart of Koolau Loa, is Red Raider country. Many windward Oahu residents showed a different color though at Tuesday's special Honolulu City Council planning committee meeting.
Dozens wore blue in support of Envision Laie, a project to expand affordable housing and increase development around BYU-Hawaii, including building 875 new homes nearby.
"For decades, the community has been asking for land to be opened up for affordable housing for people who live and work in this area," said Eric Beaver, the President of Hawaii Reserves, Inc.
Residents with the Defend Oahu Coalition wore green, to emphasis their desire to keep the country green. They oppose major development under the current Koolau Loa sustainable plan.
"It is not sustainable. It will urbanize almost everything from the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie to Kawela Bay," said Larry McElheny, a resident from Pupukea.
Before the City Council planning committee was a 25-year guide for future land use. The plan called for a balance between adding jobs and affordable housing while keeping the old Hawaii feel of the area.
The current plan had some supporters but others complained the version before the council committee is not the one the community came up with just a few years ago.
"The original plan maintained keeping the country "country." It aimed to keep our rural lifestyle. What it did was invest in more agricultural land," said Hauula resident Joshua Noga.
Instead, agricultural land at Malaekahana would be made into those 875 affordable homes.
Land had been earmarked for housing in Laie, as the university doubles its enrollment, but Beaver said using that now would limit growth even more.
"That land is located behind the Mormon temple and BYU-Hawaii, which the university and the temple have been uncomfortable with using. If they were to add homes there, it would hem them in and cut off all future growth there," said Beaver.
Alongside Kamehameha Highway, many opponents of the sustainable plan had drivers honking their horns and making noise before the meeting. They wanted to raise awareness of traffic issues, the need to preserve cultural sites and efforts to keep the very character of Koolau Loa communities.
Expect more noise by both sides of this issue in the days ahead. The committee did not take any action on the plan Tuesday night. Members are still gathering more information.
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