The State’s Defining Phrases

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 17, 2007
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The state of Hawaii has a habit of using the same words to define its culture, economy and public works projects.

“State of the art” has been tagged on just about every new government development since the planning of the Aloha Stadium. “State of the art” is a phrase intended to excite the taxpayers and somehow justify the millions of dollars needed to make the project succeed.

Another favorite is, “It’s for the children of the Hawaii, our most precious resource.” It is one justification very few people would dare challenge. It has become a battle cry of just about every nonprofit group looking for support.

The new development is good because it will “bring jobs” to the state. The people on the North Shore have been hearing that developer chant for years. The project will not only be “state of the art” and “for the children of Hawaii,” it will “create thousands of jobs for the masses.” The more jobs chant will intensify even with Hawaii’s super-low unemployment figures.

I’ve always liked the “Build it and people will come” plea from hopeful developers. It has a kind of religious sound to it. Currently we are talking about the “largest master plan” in Hawaii’s history. And like other projects in the past, it will be “state of the art,” “create much-needed jobs,” “be good for the children,” and the latest twist, “reduce traffic” and “encourage motorists to use the mass transit system.” The real killjoys are those who predict a catastrophe if a project is not built.

I’m talking about the spectacular plans that have resur-faced for the “largest master-planned community” in Hawaii’s history. The D.R. Horton Schuler Division project is named Hoopili, which means “coming together.” It’s considered politically essential, because it continues the envisioned realization of the much vaunted Secondary Urban Center for the Island of Oahu. It will become a true gathering place for people from Waipahu to Ko Olina and from Makakilo to Ewa Beach.

It will have enough commercial space to create 7,000 jobs. It will have five public schools and several private schools, and will be the community surrounding the new UH-West Oahu. To make it more attractive, it will be developed along a stretch of city’s the planned mass-transit line. What a surprise, eh?

The project will be bigger than Mililani Town, Waipio Gentry or Hawaii Kai. With that much development it will be “Hoopili” or maybe even “Sandwiched Together.”

It would appear on the surface that everything is a slam dunk at this point, but it’s not. One of the first hurdles to clear is that the 1,600 acres of farmland in Ewa is zoned Agricultural. The land must be reclassified for urban use by the state Land Use Commission. It’s already zoned Urban Use by the city administration, but not by the state. That farmland, under the circumstances, is a gold mine.

When you throw in the need for a few environmental impact statements and lobbying the politicians who control this process, it could take a little more time than they expect.

I’m not saying Hoopili is not a good idea. I’m saying that this has all been orchestrated and will play out like the Honolulu Symphony performing a complicated Bach arrangement. This project will take at least 15-25 years, about the same time it will take to get the rail line out there, build the Ewa North-South road, find a new landfill location and coordinate the traffic flow from a planned project, Gentry Waiawa, which calls for the building of 10,000 to 12,000 units (for all the same reasons Hoopili has lobbied). If this all happens, and many people want it to, by 2030 the Ewa Plain will have about 65,000 units.

I remember similar development dreams about Hawaii Kai. It took them a long time to develop the upscale community and even longer to widen the highway to get everyone in and out.

It looks like the taxpayers are in for a treat. The new homes, transit line, UH-West Oahu are all going to be built at the same time. What a concept. While we’re at it, why don’t we throw in a new “state of the art,” “world class” multi-competitive stadium. If we build it, “they will come.”

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