LUC Approves Ho‘opili, But Opponents Plan To Appeal Decision

The Land Use Commission (LUC) voted 8-1 June 8 to reclassify 1,554 acres of agricultural land between Kapolei and Ewa as urban land for D.R. Horton-Schuler Division’s proposed Ho’opili – a 11,750-home development.

For the developer, the vote is a significant green light – allowing the project to move beyond the LUC after a series of meetings spanning several months. The decision was recon-firmed at an LUC meeting last Thursday, when commissioners voted to allow Ho’opili to move forward.

“From the company’s perspective, obviously we were happy with the decision,” said D.R. Horton vice president Cameron Nekota. “We are more happy for all of the supporters. It’s been overwhelming –

the amount of people who have come out and supported the project. And I think really what the LUC approved, it wasn’t just D.R. Horton’s plan, it really became the community’s plan for Ho’opili.”

For opponents of the project, however, the outcome was a disappointment, bolstered by the fact that it came just one day after the LUC also voted to allow Castle & Cooke’s proposal of Koa Ridge, a 5,000-home development in Central Oahu, to move forward. While the decision is significant, D.R. Horton still must seek city approval for rezoning the land before the project is officially approved.

Opponents, meanwhile, vow to continue their efforts against the project. The three parties acting as inter-venors – state Sen. Clayton Hee, Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter and community group Friends of Makakilo

– were disappointed in the LUC’s decision and believe that it neglected its duty to preserve and protect prime agricultural land.

Not only is that a disappointing action, but it also could be in violation of official regulations and procedures needed in order to reclassify agricultural land, according to two of the intervenors. Hee and Friends of Makakilo have stated that they plan to appeal the LUC decision in court.

“What (Friends of Makakilo) is going to be appealing is the fact that (the LUC) did not follow those guidelines,” said group president Kioni Dudley. “I think it is just a matter of they are not following the law.”

The Sierra Club said that it currently is evaluating its options regarding any potential legal arguments.

Dudley also said that Friends of Makakilo has plans to file a motion for reconsideration to the LUC. As of press time, the group was to begin drafting a motion and planned to submit it within the week.

Both Hee and Dudley feel that their chances for success in court are good.

“I am optimistic that we will be able to present the facts in a manner in which they will be judged fairly,” Hee said. “If justice is to be attained, it will be through the courts.”

Dudley said that he is hopeful about the motion for reconsideration and “quite confident” about the success of an appeal.

From here, D.R. Horton needs to file an application with the city to rezone the land and ultimately receive approval for a zoning change by the City Council. If all goes according to plan, the first homes will be ready sometime in 2014.

“(D.R. Horton) is concentrating on moving forward, and we have no control over what intervenors decide to do with respect to any kind of appeal,” Nekota said. “And obviously we will answer whatever comes forward from them.”

Nekota added that the company’s immediate next steps are to evaluate the project before moving into the rezoning application process, and the company plans to once again discuss Ho’opili with government agencies and community groups.

In the past, D.R. Horton has garnered support from the state Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Transportation and various neighborhood boards that endorsed the project for its creation of homes and jobs.

But others, including the intervenors, have attacked the project for two main issues – the decrease in productive farmland and an increase in traffic that it could create.

Beyond that, Hee believes that if it is approved, Ho’opili could set a precedent to approve other, similar projects in the future.

“This isn’t just about Ho’opili,” Hee said. “This is a paradigm shift in the future of the island of Oahu … the Land Use Commission is unequivocally stating that it’s OK to pave over profitable prime agriculture land in production that has jobs, and most importantly comprises 30 percent of what we consume in fruits and vegetables.”