Friday, June 25, 1999

Suit aims to pull plug on
Natatorium project

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


A Circuit Court lawsuit seeks to stop Mayor Jeremy Harris from proceeding with the $11.5 million restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium.

The Kaimana Beach Coalition, which opposes the Harris restoration plan, contends that the city does not have all the approvals it needs to begin construction.

"We need to move quickly," said Jim Bickerton, attorney for the group. "The mayor's threatened to start construction right away."

City Corporation Counsel David Arakawa said the coalition's arguments are incorrect and an attempt to stop the project, which is now expected to begin construction next week.

Arakawa said the administration also is "puzzled" by the lawsuit since the opponents had appeared previously to support restoration of the facade and new restrooms.

In the lawsuit, Bickerton cited a special management area permit, which requires that the city obtain all approvals before starting construction.

The city needs two approvals for construction of two groins extending out into the ocean designed to improve water circulation.

One is an underwater construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the other is a water quality certification issued from the state Department of Health.

Larry Hawthorne, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers, said yesterday that his agency issued a verbal conditional approval in November that is subject to receipt of a water quality certification from the Health Department.

Health Director Bruce Anderson has said it would take "at least two to three months before we can issue water quality certification."

Arakawa said the city is proceeding only with the facade, bleachers, restrooms and other nonpool portions of the facility.

The city won't begin construction on the water-related portions until the Health Department can come up with rules governing saltwater pools, he said.

The Kaimana group's latest lawsuit comes on the heels of its victory against the city in Circuit Court on Monday. Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani ruled that the natatorium is a swimming pool requiring the city to obtain an operating permit from the Health Department.

As a result of Nakatani's decision, Harris is moving forward with the nonpool portions until the Health Department can come up with operating standards and rules for saltwater pools. The mayor also stated that if the city can't meet those rules, the pool won't be renovated.

The debate over the permit is also an issue at City Hall.

Council members Donna Mercado Kim and Mufi Hannemann, who oppose full restoration, have introduced a resolution initiating proceedings to revoke the permit.

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura yesterday decided to send the resolution to the Council Zoning Committee after initially telling Kim the issue would be heard on the Council floor next Wednesday.

E-mail to City Desk

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