Rezoning likely forces racetrack off the road
Enthusiasts worry the sport might collapse with no Oahu facility
The search for a permanent racetrack on Oahu drags on after the City Council approved a bill yesterday that essentially eliminates the possibility that the former site in Campbell Industrial Park will reopen as a racetrack.
The 8-1 decision by the City Council comes as a blow to raceway supporters who have been searching for more than a year for a replacement site after the island's only raceway park closed.
"This facility is Oahu's only site for racing," said Les Vallarano, a member of Save Oahu's Race Track who has been testifying for months against a bill to rezone the former Hawaii Raceway Park to industrial land.
Councilman Todd Apo, who voted against the rezoning bill, said it makes sense for the owner, HMC Irongate Hawaii Raceway Investors LLC, to rezone the 66 acres. However, he is worried about the public's safety with racers having no formal place to race.
Most councilmembers agreed that Oahu needs a permanent raceway park to deter drivers from racing on public roads. However, efforts to find an alternative site have repeatedly failed.
Raceway supporters are looking into plots in Kalaeloa and near Dillingham Airfield, but initial responses came back negative because landowners refused to convert the space into race parks or investors say the costs are too high.
In the meantime, racers are forced to leave their cars sitting unused in their garages, sell them or ship them to neighbor islands to use tracks there.
"The only option that seemed possible was the former track," said Michael Kitchens, president of the Oahu Motorsports Advisory Council, another group searching for a new race park. "A lot of people are selling their cars or moving to other things. We could build a new track and may not have racers come."
At yesterday's meeting the City Council also:
» Approved unanimously a bill that allows 21st Century Homes Inc. to build a condominium up to 90 feet high at Hawaii Kai Drive and Keahole Street, despite strong opposition from community members who do not want anything built at all.
"The community does not want a big box being built," said the area's councilman, Charles Djou. "As much as we'd rather have open space, this is the least worst alternative."
As a part of the city's agreement, the developers must keep some open space fronting Hawaii Kai Drive and put in landscape surrounding the building to ensure some natural beauty in the area.
» Pushed forward an islandwide curbside recycling bill that could exempt low-income families and individuals from paying an optional $10 monthly fee for a second weekly trash pickup.
Eric Takamura, director of the city's Department of Environmental Services, opposed this "circuit breaker" because it could deter individuals from recycling more and would create an extra burden for city employees.
He also said city employees would have to scramble to implement the policy in time for a curbside recycling pilot program that begins in Mililani and Hawaii Kai in two weeks.
Beginning in January, Mililani residents have the option of paying $30 a quarter if they want a second trash pickup in addition to the weekly recycling collection. Hawaii Kai residents will not have the option of a biweekly trash pickup.
The bill goes back to the committee on planning and sustainability before the Council votes next month.