Yesterday, Dec. 9, the Ko‘olau Loa Neighborhood Board (KLNB) reconvened their Nov. 14 meeting in which they had heard public testimony about Envision Lā‘ie.
The primary purpose of yesterday’s meeting was to vote on whether or not to support the Envision Lā‘ie plan, not to take additional testimony. The KLNB voted 6-4 to support Envision Lā‘ie (one member, Gaylene Nikora Lolofie, was absent).
The vote count was as follows:
Dee Dee Letts (Ka‘a‘awa)
Creighton Mattoon (Punalu‘u)
Kent Fonoimoana (Kahuku)
Burt Greene (Hau‘ula)
Verla Moore Chair (Lā‘ie)
Kela Miller (Lā‘ie)
Hans Ta‘ala (Lā‘ie)
Kerry Moea‘i (Kahuku)
Larry Nihipali (Hau‘ula)
Norman Thompson (Hau‘ula)
There are clear conflicts of interest on the board when it comes to this issue. Lolofie owns and operates Island Transport, which does contract work for Turtle Bay Resort, which is also attempting to develop an expansion. Thompson works for Lā‘ie Community Association president and Operating Engineers, Local 3 president Pane Meatoga, Jr., who gave a presentation during the meeting in support of Envision Lā‘ie. Moea‘i disclosed that he works for BYU, but did not disclose that he also works for Gaylene Nekora Lolofie.
Additionally, it appeared as though many residents in the Ko‘olau Loa region did not know that a vote was about to occur. KC Connors asked Executive Secretary for the Neighborhood Commission, the governing body that oversees the Neighborhood Boards, Nicole Velasco, why no one was informed.
According to Velasco, “the presiding officer announced at the November 14, 2013 meeting the date, time, and place when the meeting would be continued ... With regard to tonight’s Dec. 9th reconvene, the State Office of Information Practice advised that a meeting notice not be published for the reconvening of a continued meeting as doing so may confuse people as to what is occurring and is not required.”
The general position of the Ko‘olau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan (KLSCP), excluding Envision Lā‘ie, is to keep the country, country. This position was derived from resident input throughout the Ko‘olau Loa region leading up to the plan’s formulation.
Envision Lā‘ie, on the other hand, would require a widening of Kamehameha Highway (forcing some properties to be condemned and their residents to be evicted) and would redevelop Mālaekahana (which is currently Ag land) into a mixed-use, semi-urban, commercial and housing zone to support the massive expansion of Brigham Young University (BYU), the doubling of its enrollment and a general population expansion of more than 100 percent.
Yesterday’s vote is only the latest in a series of events that have moved this major development project forward, despite the protests of many community members outside the Lā‘ie area. These objections contend that Envision Lā‘ie is a special interest plan that will only benefit developer Hawaii Reserves, Inc (HRI) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) whose properties, including BYU, are managed by HRI.
On October 8th of this year, the Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee, chaired by Ikaika Anderson, heard testimony regarding Bill 47, which would implement the KLSCP, which still includes Envision Lā‘ie. During that hearing, we reported that there were 57 oral testimonies in opposition, representing a wide range of community members from Ka‘a‘awa, Hau‘ula, Punalu‘u, Kahana and even some from outside the Ko‘olau Loa region, compared to 51 oral testimonies in support, all of which were from members of the Mormon church or residents of Lā‘ie and Kahuku.
In 2010, Ko‘olau Loa resident William Racoma filed a complaint with the Neighborhood Commission over the KLNB’s support of the plan. The commission found that the KLNB’s support of Envision Lā‘ie was null and void because the board violated the sunshine law, removed sign-up sheets during the middle of testimony and disregarded written testimony before taking their 7-4 vote in favor.
Opposition to the plan was perhaps most pointedly ignored all the way back in 2009 when a report from the community-led Plan Advisory Committee (PAC) recommended to the City Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) that the Envision Lā‘ie portions be removed from the KLSCP.
Instead, then director of DPP David Tanouye met with HRI behind the scenes and the Envision Lā‘ie portions were inserted into the draft KLSCP.
PAC is made up of a diverse group of residents from Ko‘olau Loa representing the many interests in the area. As such, to have their decision over-ruled in closed-door proceedings in which the only interests represented were those of HRI and the Mormon church was deemed highly inappropriate by many residents outside Lā‘ie—a feeling that remains to this day.
“What we want is the plan that was originally created,” said Ka‘a‘awa resident Brian Walsh at the October 8th, 2013 meeting. “That is sustainable. That is community. This is not. The current plan is not what most of the community outside Lā‘ie wants but, if it passes, the consequences will affect all of us.”