Neighborhood board opposes Wal-Mart plans
Kapolei residents showed up in full force at a neighborhood board meeting Wednesday night to criticize a proposed Wal-Mart store in the area, prompting the board to vote to oppose the store's development.
"It was quite a night," said Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale board. She estimated an audience of about 200 at the meeting. "It was very emotional. This meeting was originally intended to get information, not to take action."
Timson said she is drafting a letter this week to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Honolulu councilmembers and Campbell Estate, asking the big-box store to look elsewhere.
"There were many questions," she said, "but there were at least 17 times when they said they didn't know. And these were basic questions."
Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin McCall said he could not answer many questions because the project is still in early stages of development. The developer is still in the due-diligence phase, he said, and no deal on the site at the mauka-Diamond Head corner of Makakilo Drive has been finalized yet.
"We were here more to listen," McCall said. "We believe that as more information becomes available, it will become more clear that this project is appropriate for that area."
He added that Wal-Mart is trying to be forthcoming with its plans.
"We've come forward that this is not a supercenter," he said. "We've come forward that traffic is our predominant issue of concern and it needs to be addressed."
The Wal-Mart planned for Kapolei will be similar in size to the one in Pearl City, which measures about 148,000 square feet.
A supercenter, McCall said, typically includes a grocery store and can measure up to 200,000 square feet.
Wal-Mart announced last week it plans to open only after scheduled traffic improvements are made in 2008.
"We think that the opportunity is there," McCall said. "It is zoned commercial, and we believe it is an appropriate place to be within the community after the improvements are done."
Theresia McMurdo, spokeswoman for the Campbell Estate, said she has received comments both for and against the Wal-Mart project.
When the deal is finalized, she said Wal-Mart's designs would need to be approved by the city's design review board.
But the core members of Kapolei First, which number about 50, are not about to stop their opposition to Wal-Mart, according to spokeswoman Carolyn Golojuch.
"This is not the end," said Golojuch, whose husband, Michael Golojuch, is vice chairman of the Kapolei neighborhood board. "It's not over until it's over. We need to continue to stand up for the welfare of the community."
She said the group would continue waving signs, knocking on doors and gathering signatures for its petition against Wal-Mart.
Some alternative uses for the site suggested by community members, she said, include a park, another school or parking for mass transit.
The issues brought before the neighborhood board were not apparently just over traffic and the size of the proposed Wal-Mart, but over the Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart's corporate practices, which have prompted class-action suits, critical books and a film.
Small-business owners at the meeting said the big-box store would put them out of business. Residents from Kapolei Knolls wanted a statement in writing, assuring them that the new Wal-Mart would not be a supercenter.
Neighborhood board member Brent Buckley, who made the lone dissenting vote, said he simply wanted more dialogue.
"I have concerns, as much of the community does, but I think we need to keep a door open to dialogue," he said. "By saying no, I'm afraid we already shut the door ... and I don't think we stopped Wal-Mart (Wednesday) night."
Buckley added that some community members in the audience did approach him afterward, saying they wanted to support Wal-Mart but were too intimidated to get up and speak.
Commentary went on for close to two hours, pushing other items on the agenda to next month's board meeting. No additional presentations by Wal-Mart were scheduled with the board.