Proposed Waimea Valley settlement draws fire
KUPUNA, environmentalists and North Shore residents opposed a settlement proposal before the City Council yesterday that could lead to part of Waimea Valley being subdivided for homes and a tourist ecological camp.
"The whispers of the valley would be those who would weep," said "Aunty" Betty Jenkins, 77, who sits on the Waimea Valley Audubon Stewardship Board. "There's no doubt in my mind that we have an obligation to those generations before us to keep it whole."
The City Council, convening as the Committee of the Whole, met behind closed doors with city attorneys to discuss the offer to settle a condemnation lawsuit. The city filed the suit in 2001 to acquire the 1,875-acre valley, which includes the park now being operated by the National Audubon Society.
The Council resumes considering the offer today.
Those testifying before the Council supported keeping the valley intact environmentally and culturally.
"Now is the time to act. Now is the time to be a good ancestor," said Laura Thompson, a member of the Waimea Valley Audubon Center board.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Don Kitaoka told Council members that the offer is good until Dec. 7, the next Council meeting.
"Today's meeting is being convened to determine what the Council's position is with respect to the settlement offer, and once that is determined, we can determine whether we're going ahead with the settlement as offered or we're going to reject the offer and go to trial," Kitaoka said.
A trial date has been set for the week of Feb. 13.
Going to trial could mean that the city risks paying more than the $5.2 million it has already paid for the property. Owner Christian Wolffer had put the property on the market for $25 million.
The offer would allow the city to own the 300 acres of park. It took possession of it in 2002. But it would also include returning the remainder of the valley to Wolffer via his Attractions Hawaii business. The proposal also calls for the back of the valley to be subdivided into eight parcels for homes while another portion of the valley would be set aside for eco-tourism.
Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, who represents the district that includes Waimea, said he supports the current master plan for the valley, which does not call for residential or commercial development.