Wai’anae voices its support for preserving agricultural land

On November 10, 2010, there was a public informational meeting on the Wai’anae Sustainable Communities Plan.  This is the plan that guides development decisions for the Wai’anae region of O’ahu. Wai’anae has always had a very strong plan, with clear limits on the growth boundary, provisions to ensure that the rural character of the community is perpetuated, and protections for the rich cultural resources and traditions.  The planning consultants have had numerous meetings with the community and worked on the updated plan for three years.   The new plan reaffirms many of the provisions in earlier plans.  It strengthened language calling for the return of military controlled land in Makua and Lualualei.   However, developers and some community members have inserted a change in the land use map that includes an aberrant spot of urban zoning in the middle of agricultural land, a notorious “purple spot” on the land use map.
This is the site of the proposed industrial park in Lualualei at a site that was once a productive farm and that sits at the base of a ridge that represents the sleeping demigod Maui.  This change in zoning in this one spot would break up the integrity of the land use designations and change the character of the area.  Lualualei is already facing negative impacts from the Navy telecommunication towers and munitions magazine and the PVT industrial landfill.  Community residents fear that this change in zoning would set a precedent for rezoning other lands nearby and open up the area for more industrial development.
Working with the Wai’anae Environmental Justice Working Group and the Concerned Elders of Wai’anae, the American Friends Service Committee Hawai’i Area Program is working on the campaign to protect the farm land in Lualualei.
At the public informational meeting, the consultants began by reviewing the plan and the key points and changes.  More than a  hundred people turned out for the meeting. The overwhelming majority of testimony was for maintaining the rural, agricultural character of Wai’anae.  A strong contingent of youth from MA’O farms turned out and expressed their desire to farm and the need to have adequate farm land available. The urban spot zone was the main source of contention and discussion.
Proponents of the industrial park talked about economic development and the fact that there were no sites where light industrial facilities could be situated in Wai’anae.  But many countered that there is ample industrial sites available nearby in Campbell Industrial park and that the benefit to the community would be negligible compared to the social, environmental and cultural costs.  It seemed that there was some agreement between the proponents and opponents of the  industrial park; all wanted to protect the rural character of their community and provide economic opportunities for their youth.   The difference seems to boil down to: some believe in their community being able to develop and thrive on their own terms, while others feel desperate and feel they must settle for whatever they can get.

The Final Draft of the Wai’anae Sustainable Communities Plan will go to the City and County Planning Commission where there will be a public hearing.  After that, it will go to the Plannning Committee of the City Council, then on to the full Council to have three readings.   These will all be critical opportunities to testify and demonstrate the commitment to protecting Wai’anae.

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