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Friday, February 2, 2001



Golfers may get
to play Kunia

An agreement to eliminate
$13 million in impact fees
needs Council approval


By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Star-Bulletin

A deal has been struck that could allow the Royal Kunia Golf Course to open to the public for the first time since it was completed in 1994.

The 163-acre course has remained dormant primarily because its owners have not paid $13 million in community impact fees to the city as promised by former developers Royal Oahu Resort Inc. and Halekua Development Corp.

A resolution introduced this week at the City Council -- signed by all nine Council members -- urges Planning Director Randall Fujiki to process an amendment to that section of the agreement.

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura said yesterday that a "proposal on the table" eliminates the $13 million requirement.

In its place, the owners and their creditors have agreed to pay the city $2.5 million and a dollar per round for the life of the course.

Yoshimura said he has been in negotiation with the attorneys of JAC Hawaii, the major financier to owner Liongain Hawaii and apparently the entity holding the purse strings of the course.

Under the resolution, Fujiki must initiate a bill making the changes to the agreement. It would need to go through the Planning Commission and then the Council.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Jeremy Harris said he had no immediate comment on the plan.

Yoshimura said Harris is open to the notion of reopening the original agreement.

"We have to remember that this course has been ready to open basically for six years, and because of this impact fee, it hasn't been able to," Yoshimura said.

"I think that if you look at this deal and compare $2.5 million to $13 million, that analysis doesn't do this deal justice," he said, noting that the city already has received $12 million from the landowner or developer.

"There are a lot of other things involved that, in my opinion, make this deal certainly worth reviewing and something we should seriously consider doing," Yoshimura said.

According to the resolution, the course would have "several important benefits to the community," including long-term jobs and tax revenues.

The course would also serve as a buffer between the Waikele Naval Magazine at Lualualei and the Royal Kunia housing subdivision, and protect dwellings in the subdivision from potential flooding.

Sources close to the issue also said an additional consideration is that JAC Hawaii representatives have threatened to sue the city over the impact fees and that some legal experts believe they would have a good case.

Another stipulation of the proposed agreement is that at least half the tee times be given for public play, although likely at market rates.

JAC Hawaii attorneys did not return calls.

Officials with the Professional Golfers Association Tour confirmed in October that they were looking at the Kunia course as a tournament site. Local representative Mark Rolfing could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Yoshimura, at that time, talked about the possibility that the city could condemn the course either to use it as a public facility or sell it to a third party for a profit that would finance the purchase or development of public courses elsewhere on the island.

"At that time, condemnation was one of our options," Yoshimura said. "The other was assisting the landowner. We can safely say now that we're more interested in exploring that other option."



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