City seeks financial help to save Waimea Valley
Mayor Hannemann says not to expect an "open checkbook" to solve the problems
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he hopes other entities, public or private, will come forward to help cover the costs of the city's settlement to buy portions of Waimea Valley.
"I'm certainly well aware of the various issues, especially with respect to the environment and especially with respect to our indigenous host culture," Hannemann said yesterday at a news conference. "But I really believe that there's a limit that the city can and should pay.
"I just hope that those that would want the city to preserve this will recognize that we're not in a situation where we have deep pockets, and there's an unlimited amount of money that would pay for this. I'm hoping that there's some kind of balance that will come out."
In a 5-4 vote earlier this week, the City Council gave preliminary approval to settle a lawsuit brought by the owners of the 1,875-acre, scenic and historically significant North Shore valley.
A final decision is set for the Council's regular meeting Dec. 7.
Terms of the settlement have not been made public.
Four years ago the city moved to condemn the valley and buy it for $5.2 million. The owner, New York investor Christian Wolffer, wanted $25 million.
Part of the original settlement offered by the landowners called for the city to keep 300 acres, including Waimea Falls, but to allow the back of the valley to be subdivided into eight parcels for development of private homes.
Environmentalists and some North Shore residents have strongly opposed the proposed deal, saying the valley should remain pristine.
Councilman Charles Djou, who voted in favor of the settlement, said the agreement was made in the best interest of the city and to avoid any court action.
"I am not prepared to go to the craps table with tens of millions of city taxpayers' dollars that I simply don't have," Djou said.
Without releasing details of the settlement, Djou said $5 million already has been set aside by the city for the purchase of Waimea Valley, and it "appears that this is not going to be enough."
"The settlement is brokered in such a fashion that the city taxpayers do not have to shell out any more," he said.
Djou agreed with the mayor's position.
Hannemann said he already has received calls from people who say the city should pay whatever it takes to preserve the valley.
"I don't believe that is the case," he said. "I'm sorry but we have other needs.
"I want to be real clear: This is not going to be an open checkbook and we're going to pay whatever it takes to keep it the way it is forever and ever and ever. We just can't afford it."