Citys land dealBy Susan Kreifels
with Campbell Estate
upsets Council panel
In 1993, when Oahu's sugar industry was drying up, sugar communities were worried about what would happen to them. The city wanted to buy 20 acres of commercially zoned Ewa Village property from Campbell Estate. But it didn't want to pay the appraised value.
The director of the city's Housing Department at that time struck a deal with Campbell Estate, according to estate spokesman David Rae. The estate would forgo $6 million -- the difference between the appraisal and what the city would pay in condemnation.
In turn, the estate would get commercial zoning on 20 other acres of land that it owned, land that was eventually designated for commercial use in long-range planning. If that didn't happen, the city would pay the $6 million to Campbell Estate.
The estate went to the City Council Zoning Committee yesterday to get that commercial zoning on 20 acres in Ewa to build a shopping center. But committee Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim said she wasn't comfortable approving the request with what looked like a $6 million price tag hanging over it, and the committee deferred action on the bill.
"Anything we do can be suspect," Kim said. "There's so little money to spread. Where is the mayor getting $6 million if we turn this down?"
Loretta Chee, deputy director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting, testified before the committee that the agreement was not standard procedure and that she didn't believe the city was obligated to pay the $6 million.
But Kim said the agreement clearly stated that the city would have to pay the money if commercial zoning was not approved. City Council members asked for more information and advice from counsel.
Councilman John DeSoto, who represents the Ewa area, was the only member who voted against deferral. DeSoto said the Ewa Neighborhood Board approved the shopping center in 1997.
"I don't want to penalize the community for something the city administration made possible," DeSoto said.
Rae said outside the meeting that the 20 acres across from the Hawaii Prince Golf Club on Fort Weaver Road are now zoned for agricultural use. But the land has received the City Council's development plan designation for commercial use. The Land Use Commission also approved the acres for urbanization.
The Zoning Committee's approval is the final step in a three-step process, Rae said.
"This is appropriate land use," Rae said. "We've spent considerable funds, efforts and time like we normally do to investigate whether the project is reasonable. We've done all the studies and worked with the community."
The Ewa Village agreement originally stated that the commercial zoning would have to be granted by 1996, but that time was extended.