Ongoing delays: Lalamilo Housing Phase 2A project continues dormant in Waimea

  • Weeds grow freely next to the paved sidewalks. Street lights and street signs were installed in the empty neighborhood several years ago. (GEORGE FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

  • Construction has been stalled on the Hawaiian Home Lands housing project near Waimea Transfer Station since 2015. (GEORGE FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — Each time residents haul trash or recycling to Waimea Transfer Station they must drive by Lalamilo Phase 2A development, an unfinished Hawaiian Home Lands housing project that sits dormant on the same street.

“A huge water tank was built and all infrastructure is in, and has been in for years,” Alice Jenkins, a Waimea resident, said in an email. “Why isn’t this development being built out?”

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Involved in the project are organizations on the local, state and national levels: Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

“To my knowledge it has to do with UXOs in the greater Lalamilo area, and a more detailed distinction of what is accepted and what is considered ‘cleared’ by HUD and other regulatory agencies,” District 9 Councilman Tim Richards said. “When I was in D.C. last month I asked Sen. Schatz’ office to look into this and see where it is stuck.”

Further development is dependent on HUD receiving a Conditional No Further Action (CNFA) letter from the State Department of Health (DOH) before Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) Title VIII moneys can be used on Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS), according to Paula Aila, DHHL’s information &community relations officer.

“The DHHL’s timeline for awards has been stymied for three years because of the UXO issue and working through the issues like the CNFA letter,” Aila said. “Ordnance removal started several years ago but was not completed due to exception areas (obstructions) that precluded UXO investigation.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Lalamilo Phase 2A is one of 22 areas spread out over nearly 100,000 acres in the region that the DOH is currently reviewing.

“Issues we’re facing are the maneuver area, munitions clean-up and toxic chemical disposals in an old landfill from near the turn of the century,” Steven Mow said, DOH’s supervisor of the site discovery assessment and mediation section. “HUD sent out a letter in January 2017 asking for the DOH letter. As a state we review reports such as these to make sure they comply. We’re trying to work out if we can issue the letter.”

To do so, DOH is preparing an environmental report.

“We’ve sent it for approval to the deputy director of environmental health and it will have to then be reviewed by the attorney general. Once approved, as a department it will be posted online and we can then meet with the different developments before the CNFA letter can be issued, in hopes that HUD sees that as a site closure,” Mow added.

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Once the process is complete, the DOH can then issue a CNFA letter that would then allow HUD/FHA lending for construction and turnkey loans.

“The contract to clear these exception areas will be awarded within the next month, or so. Final reports are expected in approximately 18 to 24 months, which will be turned over to the DOH for review and approval. Home financing and construction for Phase 2 is dependent upon the outcome of working with the state’s UXO regulator and the DOH on the CNFA letter,” Aila concluded.