City CouncilThe City Council will continue with plans to condemn Waimea Valley and has given the Office of Hawaiian Affairs until June 20 to indicate why it should not.
to proceed with
plans for Waimea
It gives OHA until June 20 to persuade
it not to condemn the valley
By Pat Omandam
The Council's Parks Committee heard mixed testimony yesterday from two OHA trustees on a resolution that would have deferred the city's plan to buy the 1,875-acre valley until OHA was given a chance to buy the property.
The Parks Committee deferred action on the proposal yesterday, making it likely the Council on June 20 will vote on a bill that gives the city administration authority to begin proceedings to buy the North Shore site. It has already set aside $5.2 million for the purchase.
"There's a grave concern about the loss of existing resources in the valley, and I don't want government to be put into a position of where everybody is shuffling their feet and nobody's taking some action to move forward," said Councilman Steve Holmes.
Holmes said city condemnation takes time, and there remains an opportunity for OHA to step forward and take action.
OHA Vice Chairman Donald Cataluna suggested the city condemn and buy the property, with OHA working in partnership to preserve the valley's cultural and environmental areas. The property is home to an adventure and cultural park, as well as an arboretum full of rare native plants.
Cataluna said the agency has not moved quickly on its own plans to buy the valley because it needs more information, such as the park's business plan and a feasibility study. And OHA itself has to amend its spending formula and adopt a land acquisition policy before it can buy it, he said.
"At this point it appears to me that any quick decision by OHA to acquire Waimea Valley will not be a right and lasting decision," Cataluna said.
Trustee John D. Waihee IV, an OHA advocate for purchase of Waimea Valley, wanted the resolution passed so the city would defer the condemnation.
Waihee argued two OHA committees recently approved a plan to buy the property for not more than $6 million. If given more time, he is confident the full board will also approve the plan.
OHA is interested in the valley because of the rare chance to purchase an entire ahupuaa (mountain-to-sea land division). By doing so, it will be better able to preserve and perpetuate native Hawaiian culture there.
Waihee explained most of OHA's investments are in stocks, and it would be wise to diversify the portfolio with landholdings. The purchase, he said, "works on so many levels."
Meanwhile, a handful of Hawaiian activists opposed the city's plans for Waimea Valley. They testified that city and state government have no jurisdiction to buy the land and that there were inadequate property title searches.
City & County of Honolulu