HONOLULU (KHON2) — A decade-old shopping center proposal on Oahu’s North Shore has the community divided on what would best serve its residents.

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Small local businesses and jobs, or an emergency center hub for first responders.

Hanapohaku LLC owns three parcels across from Sharks Cove. Currently, there are several food trucks and a handful of small shops there.

In 2011, the North Shore Sustainable Communities plan included specific wording about the parcel.

“It’s very clear the community was concerned about this becoming a tourist destination then, and we drafted language to preclude that from happening,” said North Shore resident Larry McElheny.

The area between Foodland and the adjacent commercially zoned properties
between Pūpūkea Road and Pāhoe Road is designated as a Rural Community Commercial

The NS Sustainable Communities Plan defines the area as, “a small cluster of commercial and service businesses located on major thoroughfares that provide a range of goods and services to meet the needs of the surrounding residential communities. Located along highways and major thoroughfares, these centers also attract visitors and residents from outside the immediate community. Commercial establishments may include grocery stores, sundries stores, restaurants and other services and shops catering to residents and visitors to the region. They are generally one- and two-story in height and equivalent in size to neighborhood grocery stores. With fewer business establishments and services than a country town, the rural community commercial center typically covers less land area and has less commercial floor area than a country town.”

“So a rural community commercial center is meant to serve a rural community and in our view that is really not oriented toward tourists, which we think is the way that this development is being designed,” said Denise Antolini, Malama Pupukea Waimea volunteer president who opposes the project.

The land owner has plans to build on the current area to include several buildings that would house a restaurant, bank, storefronts, and an urgent care facility. He said he is following the North Shore Sustainable Communities plan exactly as its written by offering a range of goods and services to the surrounding community.

The argument between those who oppose and are in support of the project is if it’s aimed at visitors or if it will have stores that benefit residents.

“It’s the largest commercial development, from what we know, on the North Shore ever,” said Antolini. “And it’s right across, literally just a couple 100 feet from a marine life conservation district.”

Recent public testimony shows the community was split after Hanapohaku LLC asked to have an extension on its permits after ‘slowdowns at DPP.’ There were 183 who supported the two-year extension, and 133 who opposed the extension and were vocal about why they didn’t want the center to be built.

Many in support worked at the businesses there now, and worried they would be out of a job, or have to drive further away to get to work. The land owner said it focuses on local businesses and would have local shops at the new center.

The only vote against the permit extension was North Shore district council member Matt Weyer.

“I voted no because of the concerns of the community raised,” he said.

In March 2023, discussions about an emergency services hub on the North Shore was brought up at community meetings. The Hanapohaku Parcel across from Shark’s Cove and the current Sunset Beach Fire Station was one of several proposed sites for North Shore Ocean Safety Headquarters and for a stationed ambulance.

Currently, the nearest ambulances are in Waialua and Kahuku.

“Ideally, with those first responder services, they’re located right across from the fire station, and then we have a hub, we have a center for our community, because we know we’re easily cut off from the rest of the North Shore, even the rest of the island,” Antolini said. “So it provides those critical emergency services that will really serve not just our immediate community, but all along the North Shore. So that’s the community vision that we’re promoting. And a lot of people are very excited about it.”

There are other locations being proposed, and if the city went ahead with the Hanapohaku parcel it would require acquiring the land from the owner.

KHON2 asked if the city could operate the facility on one of three parcels or two. “I think all options are on the table,” said Weyer. “The city has an allocated funding source, the clean water and natural land fund, which can be used for preservation and recreation and I think that’s a good fit for this parcel if the city is interested and right now they are.”

He said it would be a plus if the state wanted to get involved and possibly create a DLNR or DOCARE office at the site too so there’s easy access to the protected natural resources in the area.

The land owner adds many testifiers in support are anxious to get much needed jobs and services on the North Shore and an Environmental Impact Statement was completed by one of the best firms and experts in the state. He aid the design had minimal impact to the critical natural resources of the North Shore.

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As for traffic, he argues the goods and services that would be provided at the center would mean residents wouldn’t have to sit in ‘turtle traffic’ to get to Haleiwa.