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Tax exemption for energy projects wins Council OK


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POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alternative energy projects such as wind farms and solar power plants would be exempt from property taxes under a proposal passed by the City Council.

The council unanimously approved Bill 58 yesterday.

Council members also advanced measures to ban shark tours off Oahu and prohibit sleeping, sitting or lying down on public sidewalks.

The property tax exemption for renewable energy projects would last 25 years.

“;This measure will make it easier for entrepreneurs to initiate renewable energy projects,”; Councilman Charles Djou, who introduced the bill, said in a statement.

The measure goes to Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who has 10 working days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

The measures on shark tours and sidewalks still face public hearings in committee and two more Council votes.

Testimony on both measures was mixed, with only a handful of people showing up to testify.

Daniel Gluck, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, characterized the sidewalk prohibitions in Bill 59 as an attack on the homeless.

“;You can't legislate the homeless out of existence,”; he said, noting that cleanup efforts and other measures have forced the homeless out of parks and onto streets. “;This is just one more attack on the homeless. It's not a productive use of the Council's time.”;

Patty Teruya, a Waianae resident and neighborhood board member, supported the sidewalk prohibitions, calling homeless people a nuisance in parts of Waikiki, particularly at bus stops.

“;It's pathetic to go down to Waikiki Beach and see these homeless lying around these streets and sidewalks,”; she said. “;We need to clean it up.”;

The city's proposed ban on shark tours comes on the heels of community meetings on the issue, specifically in East Oahu, where the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board has adopted a resolution supporting a ban on such operations.