Water, County Plan Conformance, Access Also at Issue in O`oma Proposal

posted in: April 2010 | 0

The proposal for O`oma Beachside Village calls for development in three general areas. Closest to Queen Ka`ahumanu highway is a mauka “village,” including a mix of housing types (small lot, multi-family, and live-in retail units) and a commercial center. The historic Mamalahoa Trail generally defines the boundary between the Urban and Conservation lands. Makai (shoreward) of the trail is a residential development that is planned for about 600 single-family houses (up to 85 on relatively large lots, including some that front the neighboring Kohanaiki golf course to the south), about 100 multi-family units, and a makai “village,” with about 50,000 square feet of commercial space.

Wide buffers along the Mamalahoa Trail define one large open space area, while the second major area of open space consists of about 75 acres along the shore, where a broad setback of up to 1100 feet separates the coast from the nearest house site or commercial building.

The National Park Service was the only party requesting intervenor status before the Land Use Commission as it considers the O`oma boundary amendment petition. Its concern was to protect the quality and quantity of underground water flowing into the coastal areas of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, which lies less than a mile south of the southern boundary of the petition area.

Before the LUC began formal hearings last month on the petition, the NPS had resolved its issues with the developer, O`oma Beachside Village, LLC. Among other things, the developer plans to obtain water for desalination from the state Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai`i Authority, which is immediately to the north of the O`oma area.

But the use of seawater from NELHA pipelines raises other questions, not addressed in the environmental impact statement or other planning documents. At NELHA, several bottlers use deep seawater as feedstock for their desalination plants, which employ the same reverse-osmosis technology that O`oma Beachside Village is proposing to use. Reverse-osmosis, however, adds considerable demand to the area’s electrical grid. While the developer’s proposal calls for the village to be designed with energy conservation in mind – with light-colored roofs on buildings, EnergyStar appliances in houses, solar water heating on every roof, and so on – it is silent on the electrical requirements of desalination.

Yet another question associated with the use of NELHA pipeline water is what would happen should NELHA tenants’ demands for seawater increase? At present, NELHA has seawater to spare, but if that changes, it is not clear that any obligation to an offsite user would supersede NELHA tenant demands. The diversion of seawater to a private water supply system offsite was not among the uses anticipated at the time the pipeline was built with public funds. Whether that proposed use can withstand legal scrutiny is an unresolved question.

Conformance with the Kona Community Development Plan, accepted in 2008 as part of the county’s general plan, was a question raised by many of those commenting on the EIS for the project as well as in public testimony last month. The developer’s planner, PBR Hawai`i, has argued that there is no divergence between the Kona CDP and the O`oma project.

The CDP calls for most of the new development north of Kailua village to be focused in an area along a new mauka transportation corridor, midway between the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway and the Hawai`i Belt Road (Mamalahoa Highway). There, the CDP envisions a series of transportation-oriented developments, which will facilitate efficient public transportation systems and lessen the need for travel in connection with shopping, entertainment, schools, and the like.

PBR Hawai`i notes, however, that the CDP also calls for “traditional neighborhood developments,” along the lines of self-contained villages, much as that proposed for O`oma.

As for public access, PBR notes, “Unlike any development on the entire Kona Coast, O`oma Beachside Village invites the community, not just to a nominal space on the outer edge of the area, but all the way through the community to a makai village and a significant coastal open area preserve.” Eighteen acres along the coast will be a public shoreline park, and 57 acres (including some sites of archaeological importance) will be left in open space.

At present, a jeep road along the shore connects O`oma to the NELHA road on the north and to Kohanaiki on the south. Whether the public will be able to continue to drive vehicles along the coast is still unsettled, as is the issue of access to the shore by vehicles from within the O`oma area itself. This was brought out in a question posed to PBR’s Tom Witten by LUC member Lisa Judge.

“How would someone living in an area near, for example, the wastewater plant [proposed for the northeastern portion of the property] get to the community center [in the southwestern part], or the shoreline?” she asked.

Witten replied that they could walk or ride their bicycles along paths within the community. “They’d have the ability from any residence to get on a trail with minimal conflicts with roadways,” he noted.

“From a vehicular standpoint,” he continued, “to get to the pavilion and park, … you’d have to get on the highway and drive down there.”

Judge said she admired the planned network of trails, “but I think people will want to take their coolers” to the beach.
Witten: “That’s a good point. We should look at that.”


Patricia Tummons


Volume 20, Number 10 — April 2010


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