Agreement preserves Waimea for $14.1 million
The state, the Army, the Audubon Society and OHA join the city in settling the dispute
Waimea Valley will remain pristine open space after the city reached an agreement with a landowner to buy the land for $14 million.
Footing The Bill
Funding for the Waimea Valley land purchase:
U.S. Army: $3.5 million
Office of Hawaiian Affairs: $2.9 million
State Department of Land and Natural Resources: $1.6 million
Audubon Society: $1 million
City: $5.1 million
Total: $14.1 million
Source: Court-appointed mediator Clyde Matsui
Under the deal announced yesterday, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will get title to the 1,875-acre valley, and the Audubon Society will continue to operate the Waimea Valley Audubon Center on about 300 acres of the valley.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said in a news conference that he brought the various parties together for negotiations on Waimea Valley. "Then I asked them (the Army and Trust for Public Lands), 'Hey how about we partner to try to preserve Waimea?'"
That, he said, eventually led to the Waimea Valley settlement with landowner Christian Wolffer of Attractions Hawaii.
The settlement amount includes $5.1 million the city paid in 2001 at the start of a condemnation lawsuit. The remaining $9 million will come from the U.S. Army (via the Trust for Public Lands), Office of Hawaiian Affairs, state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and National Audubon Society.
Hannemann praised and thanked the agencies, city officials, organizations and the landowner. "When it was made clear to me that we appeared to be short to bring about a settlement, I contacted both the Trust for Public Lands and the Army," he said. "Because of the very positive relationship we had with them in the preservation of Pupukea, I thought this might be a unique opportunity for them to come forward."
"Probably you won't see at any time any development in Waimea," said attorney Bill McCorriston, who represents Christian Wolffer, at a separate news conference. "What you will see is a pristine, beautiful valley -- historical or archaeological and botanical sites that will be there for our children and their children."
Col. Howard Killian, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said the deal prevents development near the Army's Kahuku training areas.
The City Council unanimously rejected last month a previous settlement offer that would have allowed for the development of private homes in the back of the valley and an ecological tourism camp on another part of the parcel.
During that meeting, environmental groups, North Shore residents and others called for the valley to be saved.
Word of the settlement came yesterday morning when the City Council called an emergency meeting to be briefed by city lawyers on the details of the settlement.
"I think one of the very important factors is that the city will always be able to ensure that it remains in conservation," said City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, whose district includes the valley and who also opposed the previous settlement. Dela Cruz said the settlement was reached without the city having to pay any more money.
Michael North, president of Stewards of Waimea Valley, one of the groups that fought the development, said, "It is a day to rejoice for everyone involved in this settlement. All have shown leadership, vision and commitment to reach this initial result, and should be justly proud."
OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said: "We will keep the valley intact. ... It will be available for native Hawaiians, kamaaina and malihini.
"There is a long genealogy and history to Waimea, as there is a long genealogy and history to our Hawaiian people."
McCorriston said the city benefits because it now does not have to be responsible for the maintenance of the valley.
He said his client believed that the valley was valued at between $20 million and $40 million.
"He believes he's making a financial and cultural contribution to the people of Honolulu (with the settlement)," McCorriston said. "Mr. Wolffer was very impressed by the mayor's comments, and it didn't hurt that the mayor's father and Mr. Wolffer's grandfather were both named Gustaf. They shared stories of their common German heritage."
The deal is subject to approval by the City Council.