Rep. Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, Sen. Laura Thielen, D-Kailua-Hawaii Kai, and Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head, sent a letter on April 16 to the Honolulu City Council asking its 9 members to oppose development of the “Great Lawn”, a parcel 14-acre parcel in Hawaii Kai now zoned as preservation land.
The land is one of the last remaining open spaces in the community, but owner Kamehameha Schools, wants to develop 4.5 acres into a shopping center anchored by the locally owned grocery store chain, Foodland.
For the development to proceed, the Honolulu City Council would need to rezone the parcel from preservation to commercial. The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, the Outdoor Circle, the organization that runs the Hawaii Kai dog park, many paddlers from Hui Nalu Canoe Club, and several other environmental and community groups, have already come out in support of keeping the land zoned as preservation and free from commercial development.
Hundreds of Hawaii Kai residents opposed the plan at a town hall meeting on Thursday, March 21, with just four people at the meeting indicating support.
Several residents spoke on their concerns about the project and how it would impact the popular dog park and Maunalua Bay, which is heavily used by paddlers, boaters, fishermen, picnickers, tour buses, firefighters in training and workout clubs. They also cited concerns about already heavy traffic fronting the Great Lawn property on Kalanianaole Highway. Others mentioned the view of the mountains that surround Hawaii Kai would be marred by development, and preservation land and open space is disappearing at too rapid a pace.
“East Oahu residents, have on more than one occasion, expressed the need to uphold the East Oahu Sustainable Community Plan by keeping that land zoned preservation. The community has also expressed the essence of who they are as people and place are not defined by shopping convenience, but rather by the natural beauty of the area,” the letter from Ward, Thielen and Slom said
Kamehameha Schools and Foodland hired OmniTrak Group Inc. to poll the community on the project and claimed 72 percent of the nearly 400 people contacted were in support of the project. However, Marian Grey, a resident who received a call from the polling company, said the pollster who she spoke to tried to convince her to support the retail project, even after she said several times that she was opposed and wanted the area to remain open preservation space.
Ward said he took his own poll with the results turning out much differently: 87 percent of residents oppose the strip mall’s construction on preservation land.
Council member Stanley Chang is a key vote on the 9-member council that will decided whether to rezone the property because he represents the east Oahu area.
Chang was “booed” at the March 21 meeting after he first said he would listen to the people of Hawaii Kai who made their feelings opposing the project clear, but then qualified his statement moments later saying he had not decided whether he would support the project.
Chang declined to sign the letter authored by Ward, Thielen and Slom.
Rep. Mark Hashem, who represents the Hawaii Kai area, also declined to sign the letter.
Neither Chang nor Hashem responded to media inquiries yesterday asking for clarification on their position on the project and why they declined to sign the letter expressing opposition to the project.