Waikoloa, Hawaii – Video by David Corrigan
A petition to change the designation of 181 acres of makai lands in Kona from conservation to urban was heard before Hawaii’s Land Use Commission on Wednesday.
Hundreds attended the hearing held at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, and the testimony given for or against the reclassification was driven by a wide variety of community concerns.
Supporters of the Ooma Beachside Village, and the request to change the land use to urban, pointed to the community need for affordable housing, the economic benefit to the region, and the thoughtful design of the project. The mixed use master plan for the proposed community, located makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway, north of the Kohanaiki project parcel and south of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, received the “2009 Outstanding Planning Award” from the Hawaii Chapter of the American Planning Association last October. Supports praised the development’s 1,000 foot shoreline setbacks, preservation of open space, and pedestrian-friendly design, and said the proposal was consistent with the Kona Communtiy Development Plan.
However, there was also a passionate voice against the land use change. Many of the residents who gave testimony against Ooma’s petition said the project would place too much stress on the local infrastructure, and would take away the conservation of a popular beach enjoyed by the community. A number of testifiers expressed suspicion over the petitioners intentions, suggesting that once the land use designation is changed, there will be nothing to stop Midland Pacific Building Corp. from selling off or changing plans. An argument was also made that the noise from air-traffic at the nearby Kona International Airport will drive away residents and lower property values (another video is on the way, covering this subject)
It has been reported that the National Park Service, a party in the petition who had at one point in time opposed the land use change over waste-water collection treatment concerns (the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park is located two properties south of Ooma) has reached an agreement with the developers. The Hawaii County Planning Department is also reported to support the request.
Testimony continues on Thursday. It is not yet clear if the Land Use Commission will make a decision immediatley afterwards at the waikoloa resort, or if the ruling will come from Oahu a short time later.