Let’s resolve future of Waimea Valley once and for all
After the Honolulu City Council's 9-0 vote on Dec. 7 to reject a settlement offer to develop Waimea Valley, the plaintiff's attorney, Bill McCorriston, stated that he:
1. Wants to continue settlement talks on behalf of his client but only if Mayor Mufi Hannemann, not members of the City Council, leads these discussions; and
2. Has no confidence in the Council to continue mediating these talks.
As the representative of the City Council on matters relating to Waimea Valley, it is unfortunate to hear such statements. For the record, the members of the city's negotiating team were upfront with all parties, including the plaintiffs, during mediation. I personally cautioned them that any proposed housing development -- even a single home in the back of the valley -- would result in community backlash.
We were ignored and instead received a final take-it-or-leave-it offer. This final offer, along with a strong desire from the National Audubon Society, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and other interested stakeholders to acquire the valley, ultimately resulted in a 9-0 vote by Council members to reject the plaintiff's offer.
In response to McCorriston's request to continue settlement talks, the mayor stated that he:
1. Prefers to continue negotiations rather than go to court;
2. Is worried that the city can't afford to pay the fair market value of the property, if the price is astronomical; and
3. Can serve as the go-between to bring people together.
The mayor's response, I believe, is a welcome sign but only if negotiations will not be prolonged and financially burdensome to the city and taxpayers.
For the record, since 2001, the city has been negotiating and trying to resolve this matter, and has already spent millions of dollars to take possession of and maintain Waimea Valley.
To prevent further cost to the city and to quickly resolve matters, I suggest that the landowner, Attractions Hawaii, give the city its best and final offer for the valley. Once such an offer is received, the Audubon Society, OHA and other stakeholders should come to the table and in good faith discuss acceptance of the offer. If no acceptance or agreement is reached, the only alternative is to go to trial.
At the trial, the jury will likely consider various viewpoints, including those of Department of Land and Natural Resources director Peter Young, who, when interviewed, said, "With the overwhelming opposition that's been expressed, it would be difficult for the Land Board to even consider issuing a permit for any use in the back of the valley."
Young's statement underscores the true worth and value of Waimea Valley, which is zoned conservation land.
Based on the above, we should be willing to resolve this issue once and for all, and if we cannot, then let's place our faith, hope and trust in a jury to come up with a fair price for Waimea Valley.
Romy M. Cachola represents Honolulu City Council District 7 (Kalihi-Salt Lake-Foster Village).