State vs. Bishop:
Ka Iwi battle looms
Gov. Cayetano and the estateBy Mike Yuen
'are miles apart' on the value of
305 acres of Queen's Beach land
Are the 305 acres of Bishop Estate land at Queen's Beach that the state wants to buy worth $11.6 million, as Gov. Ben Cayetano says they are?
Or is the value closer to $80 million, as the estate and the tract's lessee believe?
That's the key question as the state moves closer to a legal fight with the estate -- Hawaii's largest private landowner -- and its lessee, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp., which had planned to build an 18-hole golf course on the pristine East Honolulu shoreline.
Cayetano yesterday conceded that a jury could conclude the beachfront tract is worth more than the $11.6 million the state deposited with Circuit Court in its eminent-domain action to buy the land.
If that happens, Cayetano said, "The city and the state should do all (they) can to make sure (Queen's Beach) retains its pristine nature."
Not much would be added to the property under the administration's plan, said Gilbert Coloma-Agaran, deputy to land board Chairman Michael Wilson.
There would only be some trails, bike paths, native plant restoration and bathrooms, Coloma-Agaran said. There could also be some parking in the future.
Bishop Estate spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said the charitable trust will contest the state's action. "We're not interested in selling that land," he asserted.
The estate and Kaiser are capable of doing a better job of preserving the view along the Ka Iwi coastline, which includes Queen's Beach, with the planned golf course than what the state could do, Paulsen said.
"We could do it without having it cost taxpayers anything," he added.
At least one lawmaker, Senate Minority Leader Whitney Anderson (R, Kailua), believes that Cayetano's move is misguided given the state's budget crunch.
"If we have money to spend, let's spend it on something worthwhile and stay out of the courts and trying to fight for people's property that you want to take over," Anderson said.
Kaiser attorney James Boyle said there is no defense to the administration's lawsuit since the condemnation would be for a public purpose.
The only fight, he said, will be over the value of the land.
"We are miles apart on valuation," Boyle said.
He added that the tract was worth at least $80 million 15 years ago when it had a resort/residential zoning designation.
The state has asked for a jury trial in its eminent-domain lawsuit.
"There will be out-of-court negotiations in trying to settle the matter," Boyle said. "If that does not work, then it will go to court in a lawsuit before a jury. It will be a battle fought with appraisers and expert witnesses."
Cayetano said: "I think our appraisal is, quite frankly, very fair. It's not low."
Moreover, he insisted, given the state's slumping economy, it is not feasible for Kaiser to build a golf course at Queen's Beach and make money.
Cayetano moved to condemn the land when Bishop Estate last month spurned the state's offer of $11.6 million to acquire Queen's Beach.
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