Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Gov. undecided
on Ko Olina credits

The developers make their
case for breaks worth $75 million

By Russ Lynch

Gov. Ben Cayetano met yesterday with proponents of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development at West Oahu's Ko Olina resort.

But Cayetano is not ready to decide whether he will veto a $7.5 million-a-year tax waiver for 10 years, earmarked for construction of an aquarium complex at the 600-acre resort, press secretary Kim Murakawa said. The governor is evaluating the pitch made by developers who hope to build a hotel, timeshare complex and commercial operations around the aquarium, she said.

By law, the governor does not need to rule until late June. Cayetano has previously said he was inclined to veto the tax credits, but would wait to make any decision until he had a chance to hear the plans.

Cayetano heard yesterday from the Ko Olina developers as well as Canada-based IntraWest Resort Corp., which is interested in developing a timeshare complex. Hilton Hotels Corp. said it will develop a hotel on the properly if the aquarium goes ahead. The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which is willing to put its Ko Olina land holdings into the project, is also in support.

Jeffrey R. Stone, principal of Ko Olina Co. LLC and the spokesman for the developers, said the governor was "very open, very gracious" and receptive to the proposals.

Stone and his backers have said that if the project moves along, it will create thousands of jobs and generate taxes

Opponents say well-funded organizations such as those proposing to develop at the resort should not need state help.

Stone said the money is for the aquarium which, although it will be a private venture, will be turned over to the state in 10 years. The developers say they won't come unless the aquarium is there to attract tourists, but it cannot be built without financial help and the tax credit would get the project going, Stone said.

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