By Kelly Nafie and Mark Hinshaw
Plans for preservation, conservation and citizen-guided smart growth and development in Pahoa are underway! For those who are not familiar with the Pahoa Regional Town Center Plan Steering Committee, following is a brief history (beginning with the State and local policies that catalyzed formation of the Committee) and information on committee progress thus far.
In 1993, a series of four Public Meetings, made possible by generous grants from Mainstreet U.S.A. and the Kellogg Foundation, took place in Pahoa to begin taking critical steps toward planning for the town’s future. Approximately 120 people gathered at each meeting to provide input, discuss concerns, and share their dreams for our unique and diverse town. During this time, it was discovered that Puna had been unfairly underdeveloped in terms of basic community services and infrastructure. Resources for fire, police, transportation, parks and recreation and health and human services had not been provided per federal “Level of Service” guidelines, which mandate equal levels of service based on population size. The State of Hawai’i then changed the General Plan requirements, initiating the Community Development Plan process state-wide in order to begin to address these issues.
2005 – County of Hawai’i's Community Development Plans Initiated
As a part of the comprehensive update of the Hawai?i County General Plan, public hearings were held in Kona, Hilo, and Puna where public sentiment favored, understandably, a more transparent document – one that provides for regional zoning and smart growth guidelines tailored to each community. In February of 2005, the County Council approved the updated General Plan which called for region-specific Community Development Plans (CDP) to direct physical development and public improvements within designated areas. These CDPs may contain detailed land use and zoning guide maps, plans for roadways, drainage, parks, and other infrastructure and public facilities, architectural design guidelines, planning for watersheds and other natural features, and any other matters relating to the planning area.
2006 -2009 – The Puna Community Development Plan is Born and an Action Committee is Established
Community volunteers were sought to begin the process of creating the Puna Community Development Plan (PCDP) in 2006, in collaboration with the Hawai?i County Planning Department and planning consultant John Whalen of Plan Pacific. A series of meetings that included one district-wide kick-off event, five regional meetings and workshops, 130 small group neighborhood meetings, 92 working group meetings, 29 Steering Committee meetings and five open house events saw 2,629 participants contributing approximately 5,655 hours to the process. Representatives from the government sector, private sector, non-profit organizations, and general public came together in the planning of the many components of the PCDP, including transportation, public safety, health, and more. Following adoption of the plan by ordinance in September 2008, the County of Hawai?i created the Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee (as appointed by the Mayor and approved by the County Council) in November 2009 to oversee the implementation of the PCDP.
2011 – Pahoa Regional Town Center Plan Steering Committee Commences
The concept of creating village centers in many of Puna’s vast subdivisions and diverse communities is recognized as central to the overall strategy of managing growth and development in Puna and improving the quality of life for its residents. Within the PCDP, three key centers, called regional town centers, are designated to provide a wide range of services and amenities to communities in their respective service areas. Pahoa is one such center. Plans for each regional town center, as indicated by the PCDP, are to be prepared through an inclusive community-based process.
This process was kick-started for Pahoa in late 2011. Citizens wanted to ensure a “say” in town development but found that Pahoa lacked what was needed to make this possible: an official plan and design districting guidelines that set the guidelines up front. In October and November, local community leaders and citizens came together to begin a process that would set the official guidelines to direct growth according to the desires of local residents. On February 14, 2012, the Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee formally recognized the Pahoa Regional Town Center Plan Steering Committee (PRTCPSC). It created the Pahoa Regional Town Center Plan Subcommittee and assigned four Action Committee members to assist with work on the Pahoa Plan.
2011-2013 – Citizen-Guided Town Planning Begins
In the fall of 2011, the PRTCPSC began planning for a widely-publicized Community Meeting for March 2012 at the Pahoa Community Center. The goals of this meeting were 1) to begin the process of surveying the opinions of the 96778 zip code area residents, considered the Pahoa regional service area, and 2) to establish Working Groups tasked with gathering the information from the surveys and recommending elements for the Pahoa Plan based upon survey results. More than 150 community members attended this event, which kicked off the “Pahoa Survey,” an extensive questionnaire based on Appreciative Inquiry, a positive, inspiring tool for community and organizational change processes that recognizes that “our words create our world.” Most every restaurant in Pahoa contributed an array of delicious cuisine to the meeting, kicking off the first official “Taste of Pahoa,” an endeavor well-suited to the town, which is well known for its variety of award-winning dining establishments.
Since May of 2012, dedicated volunteers have been gathering weekly to extract the data from the results of the Pahoa survey, the PCDP, and various other community groups that have gathered information from the community over the years. Their findings were compiled and advanced to the Steering Committee, which consists of Gilbert Aguinaldo, Kaleo Francisco, Mark Hinshaw, Jon Olson, and the PCDPAC members, who are Madie Green, Oshi Simsarian, Rene Siracusa and Dan Taylor. All Steering Committee members are volunteers normally meeting every Tuesday at Luquins at 9:00 a.m. Working Group meetings are held every Wednesday at the Pahoa Community Center at 2:00 p.m. All meetings are open to the public.
The Steering Committee has since met with numerous County and State agencies to discuss the results and analyses of the surveys in relation to a wide variety of topics, including Medical Services, Higher Education, Wastewater options, Transportation, and Parks and Recreation.
Tangible Progress Thus Far
Two major accomplishments and efforts currently underway include:
- Delay in Upzoning Set until 2013 to give time for community to set Design District Guidelines. One subgroup of the Steering Committee, the Design District Working Group, has been laboring particularly hard to draft design standards needed to ensure that growth and architectural character conforms with Pahoa’s historical plantation architectural style and the desires of the local community. In support of the initial efforts by the Steering Committee, the Hawai’i County Council voted unanimously on January 9, 2013 to adopt Resolution 313-12, which calls for a temporary delay on any up-zoning in Pahoa through June of 2013. This will allow the Design District Working Group time to advance and publicize the proposed Design Guidelines for all future commercial development within Pahoa Town. To view and download the draft document click Pahoa Design Guidelines or go to http://tinyurl.com/adkbjx2
Working with Officials to adjust and incorporate citizen input into controversial 130 roundabout plans. Most recently, in response to the State Department of Transportation’s unveiling of detailed plans for the roundabout on State Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road, the Committee is collaborating with State and County officials to ensure the proposed intersection improvements are properly designed and adequately respond to the community’s needs. The preference of the PRTCPSC is to see the first modern roundabout constructed at the Kahakai Blvd. intersection with Hwy. 130, to eliminate the exiting Pahoa Village Rd./Hwy 130 intersection and to create a southbound exit from Hwy 130 that provides access to Malama Market Place and on to Pahoa Village Rd.
Other Focus Points
Other important issues on which the committee is advancing based upon citizen input include:
- Advocating for better Mass Transit.
- An alternate entrance to the newly emerging Pahoa Park.
- Creating a Town Center in the middle of Old Pahoa Town which will include a Public Parking lot.
- Extensive sidewalks and bike paths.
- A centralized Pahoa Medical Center.
- A park and ride facility.
- Preservation of existing historic buildings.
- Affordable housing, senior housing and transitional housing.
Come share your input, and be part of this important and exciting time for Pahoa!
There will be several more community meetings in Pahoa during 2013, where the recommendations developed through the past year will be shared and vetted with the Pahoa Community. Our next Community Meeting will be held at the Pahoa Community Center on March 5th at 6:00 p.m. As Pahoa continues to grow, there must be a well-thought-out plan for our community that articulates a proper balance between preservation and growth; one that ensures that we as community members have control over the future, feel, economy, and experience of our beloved Pahoa Town! For more information, please email PahoaPlan@gmail.com or attend our weekly meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Based in Berkeley, Calif., Kelly Nafie owns and operates The Community Canvas, a freelance consulting company specializing in designing and bringing to life unique, progressive, vibrant, collaborative community projects.
Mark Hinshaw is the chairman of the Pahoa Regional Town Center Steering Committee the president of Mainstreet Pahoa Association. He resides in Seaview and was on that community’s association board of directors for 8 years.