Saturday, February 2, 2002

Gov blasts city effort
to force land sale

By Richard Borreca

Calling the city's move to condemn Waikiki property for Outrigger Enterprises "unfair" and "totally insensitive," Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday that he is backing a bill in the Legislature to outlaw the condemnation.

"Since when do you use government to muscle small landowners to sell to the big guy?" Cayetano asked. "To me it is an exercise of government that is totally insensitive to some of the real fundamental values that make democracy what it is. This is not Russia or someplace where you can just take people's land."

The condemnation proposal, sponsored by Mayor Jeremy Harris and Outrigger Enterprises, would allow the hotel chain to redevelop 7.9 acres along Lewers Street and Kalia Road. The $300 million project has been stymied because Outrigger has been unable to buy the property belonging to several small landowners.

Harris moved to have the City Council condemn the property, saying it was part of a 12-year city redevelopment project. On Wednesday the Council gave preliminary approval to the proposal. A final vote is scheduled for Feb. 20.

But Cayetano likened the proposal to a city-sponsored land grab.

"It is a very unfair use. If Outrigger wants to develop the property and they need these parcels, make the landowners an offer they can't refuse. It is part of the price of doing business," Cayetano told reporters yesterday.

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura acknowledged that the condemnation resolution was intended to force a sale.

"I believe the city's actions have encouraged the parties to negotiate, and I continue to believe the city ultimately will not have to condemn that property, that a compromise will be created," he said.

At Wednesday's Council meeting, the two sides indicated that was the case after the owner of a fifth property reached agreement with Outrigger.

Attorney Robert Klein, representing the owners of the four parcels, and Outrigger Vice President Mel Kaneshige said they were making progress toward a settlement.

The governor said his opposition to the condemnation action is based "on the principle of the thing" and that he has nothing against Outrigger, which is one of his wife's partners in her laundry business.

"I hope they don't take it out on her," he said.

Vicky Cayetano is president and chief executive of United Laundry Services Inc.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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