Monday, February 1, 1999

City switcheroo
snags country
market project

A North Shore project has the
land pulled out from under it,
but will clear a new site

By Rod Ohira


Farming has taught Bill Howes that hard work doesn't always yield a productive crop.

"We're accustomed to adversity, and Mother Nature trains us to be resilient so we'll always continue striving for the ultimate goal," said Howes, an organic farmer.

To Howes, Mother Nature and City Hall have a lot in common.

As executive director of North Shore Country Market, Howes spearheaded work in 1997 to find a permanent home for the twice-a-month community market, which has done business at Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park since 1994.

Last September, he and architect Mark Sundberg presented the proposed master plan for the "Pakulena Community Esteem Center" in Pupukea to the North Shore Neighborhood Board, which endorsed the project.

In support of the project, the city's Parks and Housing departments worked out an agreement under which 2.3 acres of park land across from "Banzai Rock Support Beach" near Ke Waena Road would be transferred and then leased to North Shore Country Market.

Before its functions were reorganized under the Department of Community Services, the Housing Department helped the country market corporation obtain $45,000 in federal and state funds for planning.

"It was going good until it fell apart on Oct. 19," Howes said.

That's when Parks Director William Balfour notified North Shore Country Market that the "Banzai Rock" site could not be committed to the project.

"Much of it went forward before I came aboard," said Balfour, who was appointed in July 1997. "But the community also wanted a skateboard facility, and we found there was not enough room for it anywhere else except Banzai Rock."

The Parks Department through Community Services offered as an alternate site an undeveloped 1-acre parcel on Kamehameha Highway near Kahae Street.

"We feel it's perfect for them," Balfour said. "The problem is, it needs cleaning -- but it's nothing insurmountable.

"It's a win-win situation: The North Shore gets a skateboard park, and the country market, a permanent home."

A five-year lease agreement is currently being prepared and should be ready for signing by the end of the month, say Community Service officials.

"The switch in sites puts our schedule back at least six months to one year and leaves us starting over nearly from scratch," Howes said.

"But it's fine; we can do it. We'll clear off the haole koa, clean up the lot, put down some gravel and get some portable restrooms to start with."

It could take a few weeks or months, depending on the weather.

"If the clearing is done in the wet season, serious soil erosion could occur, causing runoff into adjacent properties and Kalunawaikaala Stream," Howes said.

The uncertainty of when the new site will be ready raises another worry for Howes.

"We're concerned that the continuity of our community market could be lost if we're forced to hastily move to a site that is ill prepared, unsafe or underequipped for community or public use," Howes said.

In the interim, however, the Parks Department is not extending special use of Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park to the market's 25 vendors for more than one Saturday a month.

"Basically, it doesn't follow rules, but I inherited this (arrangement) and I'm trying to be responsive," Balfour said. "But I won't bend the rules anymore."

So this Saturday's open market from 8 a.m.-noon will be the only one in February at Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park.

"It hurts us but I understand Mr. Balfour's situation, because as a North Shore resident, I don't want to see other groups like T-shirt vendors cluttering up our parks," Howes said.

"We'll keep a positive approach. We're the only community market on the North Shore, and the 200 to 300 people who come to the market seem to like what we're doing."

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