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Vote Counts Continue
League Testifies at City Council
Viewpoint
1991 Development Plans -- More Golf Courses...? (Astrid Monson)
Beadie Dawson to be Honored by YWCA
Council Observor

1991 Development Plans --- More Golf Courses, More Central Oahu Development?

In January 1990 League and some forty other community groups succeeded in defeating the "Abercrombie bill", which sought to put an end to the Annual Development Plan Review process and substitute one-by-one "independent consideration" of DP changes whenever they were asked for by developers. The City's Department of General Planning had long proposed this. The 1991 "package" of proposed DP amendments seems to corroborate our insistence on comprehensive rather than "ad hoc" planning.

GOLF COURSES

For example, seven golf courses, and a possible eighth, are listed among the 1991 proposals--two in Waianae, three on the North Shore, two in Ewa, and one in Central Oahu. These are in addition to a roughly equal number of golf course applications already in the pipeline and fifteen or twenty others in the City's Department of Land Utilization listed as in various stages in 1989.

The seven golf courses in the 1991 package would require 2,338 acres, or nearly four square miles of land, the vast majority of which is prime agricultural land and zoned Ag-1 (Restricted) or Ag-2 (General) Agriculture. Only one of the group, in Waianae, is identified as being for primarily local use.

This proliferation of golf courses, without plan or limit, has led to proposals for 1) a moratorium on all approvals, supported by many community groups and by at least three members of the City Council, and 2) General and Development Plan amendments t o develop and implement an island-wide golf course policy and plan. How many more golf courses are needed for local play, for resort use, to satisfy the feeding frenzy for high-fee membership play? How much of our agricultural and conservation land can w e afford to devote to this use in view of the competing land needs of housing, public recreation, industry, and--yes--agriculture?

In addition, there are such questions as the environmental impact of large numbers of golf courses on run-off, water pollution, contamination by pesticides, etc. The upward effect on land prices is self-evident. Then there are the notorious proposed "impact fees" of $100,000,000 each. (Impact fees are supposed to be used to pay for the infrastructure and similar needs created by a development. To recapture the huge speculative profits resulting from changing a permitted land use from agricultural to golf course, taxation is the appropriate vehicle.) Then there is the question of which areas of the island are appropriate for golf courses to begin with, and which areas should be closed to them--impact fees or not.

It should be noted that golf courses already in the pipeline, plus those in the 1991 package, plus others proposed, could absorb more than 10,000 acres of our most desirable and advantageously located land, which can be compared with the 7,700 acres designated in the current DP's to accommodate the 81,000 houses and apartments needed, according to the Plans, by the year 2010. Whatever happened to that scarcity of land which developers constantly cite as the reason for the shortage of affordable housing? Are any of them objecting to using all this land for golf courses?

MORE URBANIZATION IN CENTRAL OAHU

This brings us to the second major issue in the 1991 DP amendment package and again underscores the need for a comprehensive approach. There are three major Central Oahu applications for development. League members will remember our strenuous efforts, in the years between 1984 and 1989, to try to convince the City Council and the Department of General Planning not to destroy the 1977 and 1982 General Plans, whose central growth policy was to direct most future population growth to a planned "Secondary Urban Center" (now Kapolei) in Ewa and prevent all but minor further growth in Central Oahu.

Compared with a 1975 population of 92,000, the 1977 and 1982 General Plans limited Central Oahu's population to no more than 123,000 in the year 2000. NOTE: Population limits are intended to be interpreted as having a range between 5% below and 5% above the number indicated.

This would be approximately the same percentage of the island's total population then as in 1975. In 1989-90, however, these limits were scrapped and widespread areas in Central Oahu were approved for development to accommodate several large projects, raising the area's population limit to 156,000 in 2010, with a significant increase in its proportion of total island 2010 population.

As of June 30, 1989, there were a total of 1,612 acres of developable land on the DP for Central Oahu, with room for 14,200 dwelling units. (League has long urged moderately higher densities in these areas, with more town houses and low-rise garden apartments, which could allow 20,000 or 25,000 homes on this same land and reduce land costs, water, sewage, street costs and taxes per family.

This brings us to the 1991 DP amendment package. The same three large Central Oahu developers who in effect re-wrote the General Plan to their own advantage in 1988 are now asking that the amount of land approved for development in Central Oahu (1,612 acres) be increased by another 1,562 acres, to allow another 9,300 homes and at least one additional golf course. This would add an estimated 30,000 more population in the area, necessitating another change in the General Plan's present year 2010 population limit of 156,900--to 186,000, compared with 132,000 in Ewa, which was supposed to be the area earmarked for major growth while Central Oahu's growth was to be held in check.

In its September 1990 "Development Plan Status Report" the City's Department of General Planning lists five "Major Proposed Development Projects" in Central Oahu as of June 30, 1989, comprising 2,850 acres, with 5 golf courses and 10,840 homes and apartments. Of the latter, only 450 are shown as completed in December 1989.

League has long objected to the advance "banking", for many years down the road, of DP-approved land, with thousands of unbuilt homes not scheduled to be developed for many many years. Land so approved is far more valuable than when it was classified as agricultural or preservation, and can be leased, sold, or just held for speculative increases. We have also opposed "development agreements" which would give vested rights to such projects long before they were even begun.

To double the quantity of such DP'd land in Central Oahu, as proposed in the 1991 package, is we feel, neither necessary nor desirable. League will try to get the Council not to change the General Plan so as to permit this in Central Oahu, and to apply a "use it or lose it" policy, as has often been suggested before, to developers who are hoarding hundreds of DP'd acres, before granting them any more DP approvals and distorting the General Plan further to make them possible.

Astrid Monson
Chair, Planning and Zoning Committee

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