Land use change sought for former Hawaii Loa College site

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A state agency is slated to consider a land-use change this month to allow turning a college campus in Kaneohe into a medical center.

Adventist Health Castle is seeking the change from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources as part of a plan to develop a $438 million health care complex on 132 acres of land it bought from Hawaii Pacific University in 2016.

The site near Pali Golf Course and Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery has long been in the state’s conservation land district largely intended to preserve open space. Educational uses were permitted on the property in 1966 for development of Hawaii Loa College (now HPU) under a special designation.

Adventist Health is asking the DLNR to remove that special designation while keeping the land in the conservation district where some development may be allowed with a conservation district use permit.

The DLNR has scheduled a public hearing on the matter outside its conference room in a breezeway of the Kalanimoku Building at 1151 Punchbowl St. on Aug. 19 at 5:30 p.m.

There are five subzones of conservation land governed by the DLNR: protective, limited, resource, general and special.

The first three categories include watersheds, wildlife sanctuaries, floodplains and parks.

Adventist Health is asking the DLNR to change the subzone of its land from special to general.

The general subzone aims to preserve open space where urban use is premature. Allowed uses can include agriculture, energy production, wilderness camps and even homes.

The special subzone applies to eight places for specific uses that include Sea Life Park, a convalescent home, a cemetery and the HPU campus.

Adventist Health said the general conservation designation is appropriate for its intended use because new facilities would be built substantially on land already developed by HPU and its predecessor, while most of the 132 acres would remain undeveloped.

“From a conservation perspective, developing the property into and using it for the health-care facilities contemplated by this application would not be a significant departure from the property’s current use as an educational campus,” Adventist Health said in its application prepared by local law firm Torkildson Katz Hetherington Harris Knorek. “No new significant areas of the property will be disturbed by construction of the new facilities contemplated by applicant.”

The development plan includes a four-story hospital with 160 beds, a cancer center, a physician office building, an outpatient building, two parking lots with about 500 stalls and a new parking structure.

Adventist Health said the new facilities are needed because its exist­ing 57-year-old hospital in Kailua, formerly known as Castle Medical Center, is outdated and not positioned to adequately service the Windward community over the long term.

Development of the new facilities is projected to take place in three phases over 15 years or so, starting with the cancer center.

The nonprofit health care company currently is letting HPU use the Kaneohe property under a lease that expires this year but can be extended for another year or two.

The DLNR said the public hearing will be conducted with applicable social distancing requirements to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The agency encourages participants to wear a cloth face covering.

The application by Adventist Health can be found at dlnr.hawaii.gov/occl/.

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