Big plans for Keaau

  • Different land uses are shaded in different colors as part of W.H. Shipman's proposed master plan for Keaau. Red is commercial; brown is village mixed use; yellow is single-family residential; orange is multi-family residential; blue is public space; and green is open space. The area marked in purple would be the site of a wastewater treatment plant.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald W.H. Shipman is proposing new residential and commercial development in Keaau, including land at the intersection of Kukula Street and Keaau-Pahoa Road, seen here.

Keaau could see its population more than double under a master plan W.H. Shipman released for public comment.

According to the project’s draft environmental assessment, the large landowner is seeking to infill vacant lands in the town with a mix of single-family and multi-family residential units, along with new commercial development.


The EA describes the project as a “walkable, transit-friendly regional town center concept.”

“Nearly all the project area is within a 10-minute walk of existing civic areas and the Keaau Elementary, Middle, and/or High School,” it states. “The accessibility will be enhanced with open spaces, trails and multi-modal greenways designed to enhance the ‘livability’ and ‘walkability’ of the community as it grows.”

The proposal, which requires rezoning and still must go through county review, could add 940 residential units in two phases throughout 10 to 15 years. The Keaau census designated place currently has 797 units with a population of 2,416, according to the planning document.

Commercial development would sit on 15 acres.

The proposal also includes a wastewater treatment plant.

Shipman President Bill Walter didn’t return a phone call requesting comment by press time Wednesday.

Jeff Darrow, county planning program manager, said the county anticipates a finding of no significant impact for the project.

The draft EA includes a 30-day comment period, after which Shipman will prepare a final version.

Darrow said that could take an additional two to three months.

Afterward, Shipman would seek changes to the state land use district boundaries, rezoning and a special permit.

Darrow said those will go before the Windward Planning Commission and County Council.

He estimated it will take Shipman nine months to a year from now to go through that process.

County officials approached Shipman about providing some of the land identified for development to a proposed Puna redevelopment agency in exchange for rezoning and assistance with building new infrastructure. The transferred land would then be used to provide housing for people displaced by the Kilauea eruption.

Walter previously said the county mentioned the idea but no commitments were made.


To view the plan, visit

Email Tom Callis at

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