Friday, December 6, 2002

Groups file suit
to stop Wal-Mart

Makiki residents and a labor union
oppose the chain's superblock
project at Keeaumoku

By Debra Barayuga

A group of Makiki residents and a labor union have filed suit in Circuit Court to stop the Wal-Mart/Sam's Club complex planned at the Keeaumoku superblock.

Citizens Against Reckless Development, Local 480 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, and Hawaii resident Jim Becker are asking a judge to issue an order that would block further construction or the issuance of land use and building permits until an environmental impact statement is conducted.

Defendants named in the suit include the city, Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The opposition groups contend the proposed development is not consistent with the community/mixed-use business zoning and would have a negative impact on the surrounding Sheridan Tract neighborhood and small businesses.

"The project will result in a very significant increase in traffic, diesel and auto emissions, dust and noise, both during the construction phase and during operation once the project is completed," said William Saunders Jr., attorney for the plaintiffs.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin said despite the groups' opposition, they do not speak for the vast majority of Honolulu residents who do support the project. "It's really unfortunate that this opposition group continues to resort to every possible means to try to stop this project."

Construction has begun at the site, and they are moving forward with the project, she said.

She said the site is zoned for the use they have planned and that the city acted appropriately in issuing permits.

Lin said they began meeting with neighborhood groups several years ago and continue to do so to hear their concerns, and have made changes to the project to reduce the impact on the neighborhood.

During a recent two-week period, more than 10,000 customers at the two Wal-Marts and Sam's Club on Oahu signed petitions showing their support for the Keeaumoku project, Lin said.

Opponents say the city has not held public hearings on the matter and that none of their concerns about the traffic, dust and noise have been addressed by the city or the developers.

"We are trying to prevent this huge project from being railroaded into this community without a full and fair consideration of how it will affect nearby residents and businesses, as well as the rest of us who must travel through this area daily," Saunders said.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has agreed to hold a contested-case hearing to decide if the Department of Planning & Permitting made an erroneous decision and whether it can overturn the decision.

A procedural hearing is set for Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex building. The actual contested-case hearing is set for Jan. 30 at 12:30 p.m. in the same building.


City & County of Honolulu

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