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Growing too fast

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Growing too fast - Crowded communities demand change

New housing units are going up in Mililani Mauka, where residents have challenged new development. At least 15,000 housing units are planned for Central O'ahu, contributing to an estimated 53 percent increase in time spent stuck in traffic over the next two decades.

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When Lance Holter moved to the rural town of Pa'ia on Maui 17 years ago, it was an easy 15-minute commute to work in Kahului.

Today, the eight-mile ride can take an hour. It's a trip filled with frustration as traffic backs up for miles.

When he gets home now, Holter usually stays there. Instead of taking his wife to the movies, they rent a DVD. Instead of going out to dinner in Lahaina, they eat at home more. Instead of working out at a 24-hour fitness center in town, he visits a neighborhood yoga studio.

"A lot of things that originally brought me here are completely gone now," Holter says. "The frustration level is very high."

It's a refrain you hear again and again these days around the state. In 'Ewa Beach, Hawai'i Kai, Kapolei, Kailua, Kona, Mililani, Makakilo, Maui and elsewhere, residents are worried that unchecked growth is damaging the quality of life in the Islands.

Statistics show that overall growth in the state has been relatively slow in the past decade, but that's small comfort to the tens of thousands of people feeling squeezed by bedroom communities expanding rapidly without new schools, roads, local jobs and other basic needs.

Now people in some of those areas have started to fight back, calling for change in the way communities are built and linked together:

* In Central O'ahu, two neighborhood boards have approved "manifestos" calling for a halt to new housing developments until the infrastructure is in place to support them.

* In Makakilo, longtime residents tired of increasing traffic congestion are banding together to press officials for more roads and to oppose a planned development in the hilltop neighborhood.

* In Hawai'i Kai, where thousands of new homes have been built or are planned, residents are jamming community meetings to voice their concerns and flooding the neighborhood with banners from "Liveable Hawai'i Kai Hui."

* In West Hawai'i, Native Hawaiians, small-business owners and environmentalists successfully sued to stop work on the 1,550-acre Hokuli'a development until it gets all necessary government approvals.

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Fighting back

"For years we've been pushing out the boundaries of our communities. Now the communities are starting to push back," said John Carey, sustainability director for the University of Hawai'i Sea Grant College, which recently helped launch the new Center for Smart Building and Community Design at UH. "We've managed to push the envelope, and now we're seeing the consequences of that. It's so apparent that there's a need to do things differently."

While there's near-unanimous sentiment that something needs to change, opinions vary widely on what to do. Some suggest moratoriums on new growth. Others take a more measured approach, such as smart-growth policies and "concurrency," a buzzword that supporters describe as meaning infrastructure should be built with new housing, not afterward.

Planners, developers and politicians say the smart-growth movement

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heckles, im sure it will happen eventually but i think a few people need some beotch slapping before they realize thats what they should do! Of course Honolulu is really the only crowded place and real city in the state all the other islands are still pretty rural over 70% of the states pop lives here.

monsoon, i hope cause its getting pretty bad, but luckily i dont have to deal with any of that cause i live in the city and i walk to work which is only a 5 minute walk from my house! I'm being the ideal urbanite, live and work in the same area, use public transport when i want to go further out of the area, etc and damn it, it feels good! :D

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