Aaron Jones bought eight acres of agricultural land in Waialua land four years ago, intending to farm the land and build a home.

Then he learned he might be able to build a subdivision.  

So for the last two years he has worked on getting permission from the city to build four homes for his children, then roughly 25 more single-family homes and duplexes along with a park in what he’s calling an “affordable housing subdivision.” 

Aaron Jones’ oldest son, Caleb, works on their 8-acre site in Waialua. Jones plans to build homes for each of his four children. Courtesy of Aaron Jones

“My kids are all super stoked that maybe, ‘Hey, I can afford a house in Hawaii too,’” Jones told Civil Beat. “If this zone change happens I think there’s a super high chance I can keep my family here.”

The land in question sits behind the Paalaa Kai neighborhood just off Kaukonahau Road, commonly referred to as Snake Road.  

The Honolulu City Council is considering Bill 76, a measure that would rezone the land from agricultural to residential. It passed second reading last week.

“I think the developer is very sincere in his proposal to provide a number of affordable housing units in this particular project, which is quite different than what is being proposed at Dillingham Ranch,” Councilman Ernie Martin, who represents the North Shore, said at the February City Council meeting.

A plan to create 70 lots on land zoned for agriculture within Dillingham Ranch, a 2,721-acre property, was met with opposition from community members at a North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting in February, including one aggrieved attendee who flipped a table, the Star Advertiser reported.

In August, Martin joined Zoning and Housing Committee members to reject a request to rezone seven acres of agricultural land in Haleiwa to either residential or urban. Community members came out in droves to testify against that proposal at the committee meeting, which was held at a gym in Haleiwa and lasted until nearly 10 p.m.

The North Shore Neighborhood Board voted to oppose converting Jones’ Waialua lot to residential, citing concerns about increased traffic and concerns that the homes will not be affordable for Hawaii residents. 

The land is being used for a hydroponics and aquaponics operation, a plant nursery and a sawmill. Some of it is vacant. 

In his application to the city Department of Planning and Permitting, Jones said the site’s close proximity to homes restricts the use of pesticides and herbicides, making it unsuitable for farming.

The property is within an area deemed acceptable for housing by the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan, a document that guides development in the area and limits growth to Haleiwa and Waialua.  

Jones said the area needs more homes to accommodate a growing population. 

As required by the state, for the first 10 years half of the homes would have to be sold at prices below market value. Thirty percent would have to be sold at rates affordable to people making at or below 140 percent of the area median income, or an individual making $102,610 annually in Honolulu.

Ten percent of those homes would be marketed to people making 120 percent of AMI and another 10 percent would be marketed to people making 80 percent of AMI.

Jones, a fireman by trade, told Councilwoman Kymberly Pine at a recent Zoning and Housing Committee meeting that most of his family lives on the mainland. He wishes they could return home.

“Well maybe when you build this they can afford to actually own a home,” Pine said.

“I’m telling them, come on down, it’s affordable,” Jones said.

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