Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Council to hear
Nuuanu debate

The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing tomorrow on a proposal to sell the public easement for water and sewer upgrades to the owner of a property next to King Kamehameha III's summer palace in Nuuanu.

About 30 members and supporters of Aha Hui Malama O Kaniakapupu, a group that wants to protect the palace site and surrounding property, gathered in front of the property yesterday to rally opposition to the proposal.

Members of the group fear the property owner will develop the land and sell it to people not sensitive to the cultural significance of the neighboring site.

"They've been good stewards, but if they move out, who's going to be the steward?" said Mel Kalahiki, Hui Malama chairman.

Robert Midkiff's family has occupied the property next to what is known as Kaniakapupu since 1886 through a land grant from King Kamehameha III. The property is just off Nuuanu Pali Drive. In 1989 the state Land Use Commission granted Midkiff approval to subdivide the family's 4 1/2 acres. There are four homes already on the site. Midkiff wants to add two more.

"We were hoping to solve the housing shortage for our children," Midkiff said.

But in 2003 the property was put on the market with a list price of $12 million. Midkiff said his sister put the property up for sale because she owed him some money but took the property off the market after it caused an uproar among Hawaiians. Midkiff said the property will remain in the family.

But Hui Malama asked land use commissioners to revoke their approval to subdivide the property. When the commission refused, Hui Malama took its case to state Circuit Court. The matter is now before the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Midkiff said the city required him to have fire protection and granted him permits to install new water lines for a hydrant and new sewer lines. Work was completed two years ago, but Midkiff could not hook into the city water and sewer lines because approval to sell him the easement was stalled in the City Council.

The sale of the easement will allow Midkiff to maintain and repair the underground lines, but the city will still own the land.

City Councilman Rod Tam said the city administration should not have granted Midkiff a permit to install the water and sewer lines without first getting Council approval.

"Rod Tam has had the permit held up for two years running. This is the third time. My patience is running out," Midkiff said.

He said the city allowed him to hook into city water and sewer lines late last year.

King Kamehameha III built his summer palace at Kaniakapupu in 1840 and three years later hosted about 10,000 people to celebrate the return of Hawaiian independence following five months of British occupation. The palace was abandoned after the king's death. The surrounding area is said to contain a burial mound from the Battle of Nuuanu, which King Kamehameha I won to unite the Hawaiian Islands.

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