The Honolulu Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a zone change that would pave the way for developer D.R. Horton to build 11,750 homes in West Oahu.

The project known as Hoopili has been touted by supporters as providing much-need affordable housing along the city’s planned rail line, but it has been criticized by environmentalists who are worried about the loss of prime agricultural land.

D.R. Horton’s zone change application goes next to the City Council for consideration.

Map of Hoopili Development Kapolei West Oahu

“With the state’s demand for affordable and attainable housing on the rise, the time to build Hoopili is now,” said Bob Bruhl, president of D.R. Horton Hawaii, in a statement. “We are thrilled that the Planning Commission agrees, and we look forward to taking the next step in making Hoopili a reality, especially for the kamaaina families that it will serve.”

Despite the project’s momentum, opponents like Anthony Aalto, who leads the Oahu branch of the Sierra Club, said that it promotes unsustainable growth. He said the Sierra Club supports the addition of thousands of homes in Honolulu, but not on productive farmland.

The Sierra Club and state Sen. Clayton Hee have a lawsuit pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court seeking to stop the development, arguing that the state has a constitutional obligation to protect its important agricultural land.

Aalto said Wednesday that despite the commission’s decision, he believes the developer hasn’t met all the conditions required by the state Land Use Commission, and that the city shouldn’t move forward with a zone change before the court case is resolved.

“The whole enterprise felt very much like a rubber stamp,” he said of Wednesday’s meeting. “It didn’t feel like anyone there was seriously considering the planning implications … It’s a massive development in the wrong place.”

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