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City panel lets application for landfill permit stand


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POSTED: Thursday, July 09, 2009

The city Planning Commission will rule July 31 on the city's application to expand and extend the life of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.

A contested case hearing on the permit, brought by state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa on behalf of the Ko Olina Community Association, wrapped up yesterday when commissioners also denied a separate motion by Hanabusa to dismiss the application altogether.

The city panel's ruling will go to the state Land Use Commission, which will make the final decision on the special use permit. Though the state body is not bound by the city ruling, it will consider the record created by the contested case hearing.

The landfill is scheduled to close Nov. 1, but the city is seeking to expand it and extend its use for 15 years while alternative solid waste solutions are developed and put into effect.

Critics argue the landfill should be closed as promised by previous city administrations.

Hanabusa, who lives in Ko Olina and represents the district, filed a motion last week seeking to have the city's permit application dismissed on the basis that only a partial environmental study of the expansion's potential impact was conducted.

She argued the environmental impact study, or EIS, presented last year is incomplete because it only covers the 92.5-acre expansion and does not consider the impact created by the total area of the landfill, about 200 acres, once the expansion is complete.

City attorneys contend the permit application and EIS covered the entire project but focused on the expansion.

They further argued that the Planning Commission does not have the jurisdiction to handle the challenge to the EIS. The matter should be taken up through the normal court process, they said, noting that Hanabusa's court challenge of the EIS is pending.

Commissioner Beadie Dawson cast the only vote in Hanabusa's favor on the application dismissal. She argued that the city could find itself in a situation similar to the Hawaii Superferry, which proceeded with business despite pending court rulings and ultimately had to shut down when the rulings went against it.

“;We're being asked to decide on the 200 acres, but we have an EIS on the 92.5 acres — there's a mismatch there,”; Dawson said. “;My concern is that we do need a final EIS for the 200 acres because that's what we're being asked to decide upon.”;