Koa Ridge Under Fire By Sierra Club

Sierra Club of Hawaii has begun a radio campaign to protest planned housing at Koa Ridge, being developed by Castle & Cooke.

The project will add 3,500 new residential units and 500,000 square feet of commercial space to an area adjacent to Central Oahu Regional Park. The commercial space will include a community center, retail stores, restaurants, a medical center and a 150-room hotel.

According to Sierra Club, Koa Ridge and other development planned for the area could lead to two-hour commutes from Mililani to Ala Moana and the destruction of valuable farmland.

The City Council Planning Committee gave preliminary approval Sept. 12 to rezoning the property. A second read and public hearing were held Oct. 9. A third reading must be held before the Council can vote on the final version of the bill. The final vote has not yet been scheduled.

“Polls consistently show that our members and the public at large rate farmland preservation and traffic as two of their top political concerns,” said Anthony Aalto, Sierra Club Oahu Group chairman. “We anticipate this huge project would lead to complete and utter gridlock on H2 and H1.”

As part of its design, Castle & Cooke will spend $100 million on traffic solutions, including improvements to the Waipio Interchange and construction of a new H2 freeway interchange at Pineapple Road Overpass.

Bruce Barrett, Castle & Cooke executive vice president of residential operations, said the development may create a slight, unintended rise in highway traffic, but that the improvements will be sufficient to handle the flow in the immediate area.

A second part of the plan, he said, is to create area jobs that will reduce traffic heading toward Oahu’s urban core.

“We project 2,300 full-time jobs once the community is built out. That’s a ratio of two jobs for every rooftop, and that’s part of smart growth planning in terms of trying to create employment centers to help offset and mitigate people just going in one direction.”

A vote in favor of the development by the full Council likely will not result in immediate construction. Sierra Club has filed an appeal with the Intermediate Court of Appeals to have the State Land Use Commission overturn its decision to reclassify the land.

The decision is expected to take eight months, with the case being appealed to the state Supreme Court no matter who wins the appeal.