A joint proposal by owners of the locally owned Foodland supermarkets and landowner Kamehameha Schools to build a new strip mall on 4.5 acres of preservation land in east Oahu has many Hawaii Kai and Niu Valley residents concerned.

Rep. Gene Ward in conjunction with other area lawmakers has organized a town hall meeting for Thursday, March 21, at Kamiloiki School beginning at 7 p.m. to let the public voice their concerns over the plan to turn the “Great Lawn” into a strip mall anchored by Foodland.

The parcel on Kalanianaole Highway and Hawaii Kai Drive adjoins the community’s popular dog park and is across the street from the well-used Maunalua Bay, which is frequented by paddlers, boaters, surfers and workout clubs. It is also in a tsunami zone and in an area with heavy traffic throughout most of the day.

Developer Kamehameha Schools disputes the plan is unpopular and controversial, citing its poll that claims 72 percent of residents favor the strip mall concept.

But Rep. Gene Ward countered with the results of his own poll that shows 87 percent of residents oppose the strip mall’s construction on preservation land.

“Contrary to earlier expectations, all indications are that Kamehameha Schools and Foodland are seriously moving forward to construct a strip mall across from Maunalua Bay by requesting a change in the East Honolulu Sustainable Communities Plan. Hawai‘i Kai loves Foodland, but we love the ‘Great Lawn’ more,” Ward said. “It’s time to stop referring to opinion polls and go directly to the people of Hawaii Kai.”

Foodland was located in Hawaii Kai’s Koko Marina Shopping Center for decades until 2011 when Walgreens and Petco took over the space.

At a town hall meeting in 2011 organized by area lawmakers Rep. Gene Ward and Sen. Sam Slom, several hundred people shared their outraged and frustration over Koko Marina management’s decision not to renew Foodland’s lease, and patrons pledged not to shop at the Wallgreens and Petco.

Foodland owners have had the public’s support for a new store in an existing Hawaii Kai mall, because Safeway is the only general grocery store in the sizeable community.

However, many residents and community groups are speaking out against plans to rezone preservation land to commercial, especially at the entrance of the community.

Kamehameha Schools and Foodland will send representatives to brief the community, Ward said.

Not everyone is opposed to the plan to build the strip mall on the Great Lawn. Realtor Rob Burns who lives in Portlock not far from the land in dispute said there are two sizes to every story and the residents should keep an open mind. “Most of the people in Hawaii Kai live in homes on land previously designated preservation with underlying urban residential,” Burns said. The public should not crucify Kamehameha Schools who is doing the best thing they can do with their lands to create income to fund their [mission to educate] Hawaiian kids.”

In addition to Ward, Sen. Sam Slom, Sen. Laura Thielen, Rep. Mark Hashem and City Council Member Stanley Chang and the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board are sponsoring the community forum.

The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board has already come out in support of keeping the land zoned as preservation.