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Thursday, February 19, 2004



Beach deal hinges
on traffic fixes


Improvements to help curb traffic congestion near a planned Wal-Mart in Pearl City are among the final details of a deal that could soon end 15 years of litigation over land near Sandy Beach.

The City Council approved yesterday the latest version of a settlement reached two years ago between the city and plaintiffs Kamehameha Schools and lessee Maunalua Associates over two parcels of East Oahu land known as Golf Course 5 & 6.

Developer Maunalua Associates obtained the permit to build 171 residential units on the ocean-view properties, owned by Kamehameha Schools, in 1988. An initiative to preserve the land, led by the Save Sandy Beach Coalition, eventually resulted in 160,000 people voting against developing the property.

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the 1988 initiative was illegal, but the city enacted a moratorium on issuing permits for the property, then passed an ordinance to downzone the parcels to preservation.

Lawsuits ensued, and a Circuit Court judge ruled that the city's move violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

As part of a settlement announced in 2002, the city agreed to turn over to the plaintiffs $17.5 million from the sale of 20 city acres to Wal-Mart and four other nearby parcels. The parcels are above Pearl Highlands Center where the company operates a Sam's Club. The deal also includes the city turning over to the plaintiffs street remnants in Kakaako and Kalihi that abut Kamehameha Schools property.

The city, in return, would receive the title to the Golf Course 5 & 6 parcels for use as a public park.

Councilman Romy Cachola said that there are still conditions that must be met by the city before the Wal-Mart parcel closes, including issuing a building permit.

Cachola said that the settlement means a potential savings to taxpayers of $150 million that the city might have been forced to pay in damages.

Concerns arose over potential traffic congestion Wal-Mart's project would bring to the area.

Councilman Gary Okino, who represents the area, said the city and Wal-Mart haggled over who would pay the millions of dollars in traffic improvements.

"They agreed to do most of the improvements, and we pay like a fraction of the cost," he said, about $1.6 million.

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