Don't let legislative snag kill plans for Kalaeloa
A Senate committee chairman has killed legislation to authorize $250 million in bonds for the state to purchase 500 acres at Kalaeloa.
WHILE Hawaii's congressional delegation was disappointed by the Navy's recent decision to base an aircraft carrier in San Diego instead of Pearl Harbor, proponents of an ambitious plan by the state for redevelopment of land at Kalaeloa
were encouraged by an end to the uncertainty. A state Senate committee chairman who has injected new uncertainty by killing legislation necessary to go forward with the plans should not be allowed to bury them.
The possibility of the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station being used as a base for fighter jets and helicopters attached to the USS Carl Vinson had cast uncertainty over the state redevelopment plans. The Hawaii Community Development Authority is seeking to issue $250 million in bonds to purchase 500 acres from the Navy and bring economic growth to the area.
Sen. Russell Kokubun, a Big Island Democrat who heads the Senate Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, instead killed House-approved legislation to authorize the bonds. Calling the Kalaeloa plans "kind of a blank canvas," Kokubun refused to schedule a hearing to try filling in the blanks.
Kokubun said he was uncertain about the purchase price of the Navy land, the cost of infrastructure work and apparently the effects of the Navy's decision to locate the carrier in San Diego. If Kokubun had held a committee hearing, he would have learned that the Navy's announcement would have no effect on the Kalaeloa redevelopment.
"It doesn't change the master plan at all," Daniel Dinell, HCDA's executive director, told the Star-Bulletin's Nina Wu. "It creates a certainty over something that was not certain." Sen. Mike Gabbard, who represents the area, called the Navy's announcement "a very positive thing, so we can move forward."
HCDA completed a Kalaeloa master plan in September 2005 detailing its vision for 3 million square feet of light industrial, retail and office space, high-technology energy development and 6,350 homes. The plans call for new public schools, parks and a Hawaiian cultural center.
The state regards HCDA's redevelopment of Kakaako as a blueprint for Kalaeloa. Gov. Linda Lingle has pointed out that the state spent $153 million on infrastructure in Kakaako over 30 years, attracting more than $2 billion in private investment. At Kalaeloa, she expects the $250 million in bonds would enable the state to leverage $3.5 billion in private funds for development.
Congress is allowing the Navy to transfer the lands by September 2008, which might give next year's Legislature an opportunity to approve the bonds in time. In the meantime, Gabbard said, "The bottom line is, we have to be careful these lands don't just go to the highest bidder."