Thursday, June 16, 2005


Protecting North Shore
land would serve
public’s interest


A alliance of groups is awaiting word on its offer to buy 1,129 acres at Pupukea-Paumalu.

A plan to protect 1,129 acres of North Shore land has reached a turning point where renewed support from key political leaders and the community could be pivotal.

Though nearly $7 million has been raised or earmarked to buy the Pupukea-Paumalu property, a final push is necessary to achieve what so many diverse interests have sought during the past few years.

State and city officials could help in this effort by reiterating their support, signaling to the land's owners the public desire that the land be left undeveloped.

Various entities advocate preservation of the coastal highlands that rise above the surf breaks at Sunset Beach, Rocky Point, Pipeline and Log Cabins and extend toward forest reserves and conservation areas.

The U.S. Army favors limiting development because of its adjacent training grounds. The tourism industry recognizes the economic advantages of sustaining a scenic landscape near Oahu's premier big-wave havens to draw visitors, as do North Shore retail and business groups. Scores of surfers, bodyboarders and conservation, environmental and Hawaiian organizations have backed the plan.

The state Legislature, Gov. Lingle and the City Council have cleared a total of $2 million for the purchase. The Army has pledged up to $3 million, while U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye has secured a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant of $2 million.

Supporters envision a "passive park" that would be used for hiking and other recreation, cultural, agricultural and forestry activities and native plant restoration on the bluff, managed by community groups. That would be in keeping with the abutting Boy Scout and Girl Scout campgrounds. A lower portion could be used to expand the park at Sunset Beach.

The land, largely zoned for agriculture, has been assessed at $7 million, the amount owners Obayashi Hawaii Corp. paid in 1974. The company put the property up for sale at $12 million in 2002 because of economic conditions and community opposition to building hundreds of luxury homes there.

The recent boom in housing could make the land attractive to other buyers, but development would face formidable hurdles. Construction costs and zoning limits would demand homes be priced in the millions. Mitigation for sewage, erosion and runoff also would be financially and environmentally expensive. Moreover, traffic along the highway would be affected.

However, the chief obstacle would be that luxury homes on the two adjoining ahupuaa do not serve the public interest, not in an area where rural character is prized.

The organizations that have been working hard to preserve Pupukea-Paumalu hope their offer will be accepted soon, as do all who value the rare scenic spaces left on Oahu.

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