The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board will vet a controversial development proposal on Tuesday night by Kamehameha Schools to build a strip mall on a 4.5 acre property on Kalanianaole Highway, just across the street from popular Maunalua Bay.

The proposal is already drawing fire from the community because the strip mall would be built on preservation land. The city would need to rezone the land to commercial use.

Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican who represents much of East Oahu, is opposed to the plan. He said many residents in the community are as well. Slom, president and executive director of Smart Business Hawaii, a small business advocacy organization, said residents want to protect preservation land and open spaces in the already densely developed East Oahu community.

“I am unalterably opposed to changing the current Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate preservation zoning and commercialization of the open parcel known as ‘the great lawn,’ directly across and mauka from Maunalua Bay. To destroy this open space, view plane, view of the mountains and to interfere with the recreational use of the Bay, is short-sighted and both wrong and a poor use of planning. Besides the visual blight and loss of open space, the traffic congestion and safety issues are of great concern. This alone would be reason enough to oppose any change in use classification.”

Kamehameha Schools, the state’s largest private land owner, is potentially including Foodland in the mall concept because the popular local grocery store lost its lease last year about a mile down the road at the Koko Marina Shopping Center. The store, which was one of the first Foodland stores in Hawaii and was built in the 33,000 square foot space almost 50 years ago, was replaced by a Petco and WalGreens. Safeway and Costco are the only remaining major grocery stores in Hawaii Kai.

“Like many other area residents, I would hail the return of Foodland to Hawaii Kai,” Slom said. “However, the logical place for a grocery and other needed goods and services businesses is clearly KSBE’s vastly underutilized Kalama Valley Shopping Center. The zoning is there, the parking is there and commercial additions should be there as well.”

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Livable Hawai’i Kai Hui, a non-profit (501C3) community group based in Maunalua, is rallying residents and Maunalua Bay users against the plan.

“This is not about being anti-development, but it is about respecting our preservation land in Maunalua and, in this particular preservation area, protecting Maunalua Bay from all that will come to the land and waters of Kuapa and Maunalua bay if this development takes place.  Many of the last open spaces left in Hawai’i Kai are preservation land including the Ka Iwi Coastline Mauka, the open spaces around Costco and the Hawai’i Kai Post office and Ka Lapa O Mana (Paiko Ridge).  The Hui would like to see all these open spaces that are preservation land kept that way.  Once the door is open for any of these preservation lands to be developed on, then all the remaining preservation lands in Maunalua will be under constant threat,” said Ann Marie Kirk, a volunteer with the Livable Hawai’i Kai Hui.

Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board members are reportedly passionately opposed to the plan.  They will accept public testimony at the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in Hahaione School’s cafeteria.

Kirk is asking the public to share their thoughts before the neighborhood board meeting by emailing Board Chair Greg Knudesen at knudsen123@gmail.com and Board Member Elizabeth Reilly at yacuk@aol.com

“This parcel of preservation land should stay undeveloped. This open green preservation space helps define our community and provides an inviting entrance into Hawai’i Kai,” Kirk said.

“We are concerned about the negative impact development, construction and commercial use of this area would have on the waters of Kuapa and Maunalua Bay and about the enormous increase of traffic and congestion in the area,” she added.

The state recently completed a widening project in front of that very land parcel, spending more than $2 million to add a turn lane. “This work will be compromised or destroyed,” Kirk said.

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