Kamilo Nui

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Kamilonui Valley.
Kamilonui Valley.

Kamilonui Valley is located on the eastern end of the island of Oahu, in an area known as Hawaii Kai. The valley contains the last vestige of agricultural activity in what has become a gigantic residential subdivision.

Developer, Stanford Carr, is planning to build 200 homes on 83 acres in the Kamilonui Valley. The land is zoned for agriculture and would require a zoning change, subject to public hearings and City Council approval.

The farmers of Kamilonui belong to the Kamilonui Farmers Cooperative. Under the terms of the 1970 agreement all of the owners of Kamilonui’s 16 leases are automatically members of the co-op. Many are near retirement age. Their 60-year leases are up in 2025, but rental renegotiation with landowner Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate (KSBE) is due in 2007.

In August 2004, the Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board voted to support a City Council resolution backing the East Honolulu Sustainable Communities Plan, a plan that designates the Kamilonui as agricultural.

In a Honolulu Star-Bulletin article dated September 19, 2005, Mary Vorsino reported:

According to a company letter distributed to the valley's farmers, Carr has reached an agreement with landowner Kamehameha Schools to negotiate the purchase of lots. The news has prompted Hawaii Kai residents opposed to the valley's development to call a meeting tomorrow, in hopes of coming up with a new strategy for fighting off Carr.

"There's a ways and means for this development to happen and that's what's frightening," said Elizabeth Reilly, president of Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, a group aimed at stemming development and congestion in east Honolulu.

[...]

Carr did not return a call for comment, but said in an Aug. 31 letter to Kamilonui farmers that the agreement with Kamehameha "was the result of three years of negotiations and it gives SCD (Stanford Carr Development) the exclusive rights to work on your behalf to apply for entitlements and to negotiate the fee simple purchase of the lots from Kamehameha Schools."

A spokesman for Kamehameha Schools confirmed that the agreement had been made.

"We will sell to him ... if he can gain the approval of all the farmers in the valley to turn their lease interests over to him," said spokesman Kekoa Paulsen yesterday, adding that the proposal was brought to Kamehameha by the Kamilonui farmers' cooperative.

"We'll have an agreement if we get all the farmers to agree," Paulsen added. "If the farmers wish to continue to farming, then we have a lease with them and we'll continue to honor that lease."

Carr, who announced plans last year to build 200 homes in the valley's 83 acres, still faces several hurdles to developing in the valley.

First, he must obtain the leases for the farming lots, and Reilly said at least three farmers are adamant about staying. Also, the City Council would have to re-zone the valley residential, from agricultural, and ask for public comment.

Last year, the council unanimously passed a resolution that supports keeping development out of the valley -- at least in the short-term.

Reilly said her greatest fear is that all of the farmers will eventually sell. Right now, she said, "they're all divided and conquered."

But Lillie Wong, president of the valley's farming cooperative, contends they're just old and tired and ready to retire. "My farmers are dying faster than you can think," she said. "They can't even die and age in dignity."

Reilly said her organization is looking into the possibility of purchasing the property rights of the lots and keeping the valley in farming.

But, she said, that would take a lot of money and planning. [1]

In order for Stanford Carr to buy the property he must first convince all of the leaseholders to sell him their lease interest. The leases would then end and he would become the fee simple owner of the property. Carr was unable to convince enough of the leaseholders to sign away their interest to him for his development plan to succeed.

In 2010, with leases ending, the Kamilo Nui farmers face increased lease rent from landlord Kamehameha Schools:

The essential agricultural struggle in Hawaii — achieving profitability with intense development pressure driving up land costs — is playing out in East Oahu at an accelerated pace. That's evident in the current crisis faced by 13 small farmers in Kamilo Nui, businesses that represent the last vestige of what was historically a thriving agricultural community, displaced by the development of Hawaii Kai and other neighborhoods. With the end of a low, fixed lease rent they secured four decades ago, the lessees now face a catastrophic, 25-fold rise in rent: about $5,000 annually per acre. Landlord Kamehameha Schools is open to negotiations, but the bar seems to be set at an intimidatingly high level for the farmers, many of them older and of limited means. [2]

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