Keaau development plan still in the works

  • PEGGY FARIAS

A $100 million plan by W.H. Shipman to build nearly 1,000 residential units in Keaau over 15 years might not take any major steps forward this year.

The last milestone for the project took place in July 2020, when the state Department of Health published an environmental assessment of the project’s master plan, finding no significant environmental impact. At the time, the next immediate step for the project was the drafting and submission of a rezoning application for 121.7 acres in Keaau, which would encompass the first phase of the project.

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However, Shipman President Peggy Farias said Friday that the rezoning application might be completed by the end of this year, but could just as easily take longer.

“We are pursuing this process very carefully, and therefore we have not determined a concrete timeline,” Farias said via email. “We are in the preliminary stages of preparing our zoning application and should have more definitive information on this within 6 months. We do know that there is a need for additional housing and services in our community, and are balancing that urgency with the need to be thoughtful and complete.”

The first phase of the project would cost approximately $40 million and includes four separate parcels of land throughout Keaau. Two of those parcels are located immediately north of the Keaau elementary and high schools, and would be developed for mixed commercial and residential purposes — this phase would add approximately 470 new residential units to the town.

The other two parcels include a smaller site north and west of Highway 11 — which would house a regional commercial center — and an even smaller parcel south of town where a wastewater treatment plant would be built.

The second phase, which costs about $52 million, would infill 136 more acres of vacant land with another approximately 470 new units.

Farias said rezoning the first phase properties may require multiple applications, with most of the parcels included within a Project District Zoning package that allows for greater project flexibility at the cost of greater complexity. The commercial center may be zoned separately depending on interest from local businesses, she added.

Whenever the zoning applications are complete, they will be submitted to the county Planning Department for consideration.

Planning Director Zendo Kern said the process from submittal to final approval or denial by the County Council should take about six weeks.

Should the applications be approved, Kern said the rezoning will likely come with conditions that Shipman will have to implement within five years.

Farias said, if the applications are approved, Shipman will prepare a detailed master plan and solicit community feedback.

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She noted that public attitudes toward the project have been difficult to gauge over the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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