Tuesday, August 14, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Park’s bankruptcy
stalls city’s purchase

The planned buyout of Waimea
Falls Park is on hold until the
owner and bank settle

By Pat Omandam

The city cannot begin condemnation proceedings to obtain Waimea Falls Park until the property is out of bankruptcy, said City Councilman Romy Cachola.

Meanwhile, efforts by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to purchase the 1,875-acre property continue to fade, although a city-OHA partnership remains a possibility.

"In the end it's all still up in the air," said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona. "Right now, it looks like the ball is in the city's court."

Yesterday, Cachola said the condemnation, which the City Council approved in a June resolution, has been assigned to a city lawyer. But the city cannot file condemnation proceedings on the case in Circuit Court because the property remains in bankruptcy protection, he said.

New York investor Christian Wolffer, who owns Waimea Valley Adventure Park and Sea Life Park, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy of these properties in April.

The filing was made to stop Bank of Hawaii, which holds the mortgages on these properties, from having them sold and the cash impounded.

The bank and Wolffer disagree on how much Wolffer has to pay in mortgages after he bought the properties in 1996. That action halted foreclosure proceedings by the bank.

Wolffer put the park up for sale last year at a price of $25 million and lowered it to $19 million. The city has set aside $5.2 million to buy the property after a court sets the condemnation price.

In mid-June the OHA board agreed it would attempt to buy the property at the condemnation price of $5.2 million only if it was free of all existing debts and liens.

But Wolffer recently told OHA the offer was too low and that the infrastructure alone was worth $11 million.

Apoliona said there is another month left before she expects any follow-up by the board, which had asked for an outside due-diligence study of the property.

Trustee John Waihee lV has spearheaded OHA's effort to buy the property, which is a complete valley-to-sea ecosystem, or ahupua'a, to preserve the park's botanical and cultural resources.

He is expected to meet with Mayor Jeremy Harris later this month to discuss the issue.

The Council is interested in having OHA manage the park, said Cachola, who introduced a resolution adopted this summer that deferred acquisition of Waimea Valley until OHA had an opportunity to buy the property.

Cachola said the city and OHA have similar plans for the park and should work together.

City & County of Honolulu

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