Thursday, March 4, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann talks with swap-
meet vendors yesterday before a Planning Commission meeting.

vendors hail victory
in blocking park

But the Kam Drive-in site will
still be lost if Bishop Estate
leases it to a new

By Susan Kreifels


Vendors applauded after the Planning Commission voted down a City Council proposal to designate the Kam Drive-In site, used for a swap meet, as a future park.

But now some of them are wondering whether the decision was a good one.

A Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate official told vendors the estate is not actively seeking businesses to take over the lease on the Aiea property, now leased by Consolidated Amusement.

But City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann said Bishop Estate is handing them a "bold-faced lie. They are aggressively courting (businesses)," Hannemann said. "They call my office every week to pull back on this movement because it will hurt their efforts to sell."

Barbara Gray, a vendor for seven years, said she is now "feeling very conflicted" about whether to support the park plan or not.

Bishop Estate official Paul Cathcart told her there were no immediate plans to develop the site. But if the estate gives the current lease to some other business, "the site's at risk," she said, adding that vendors now must pressure the estate. "For a lot of us it makes the difference between economic survival and welfare."

The commission is an advisory body only, and the City Council can vote against its recommendation.

Vendors collected 5,000 signatures against the park proposal. But Gray said she would support the park if vendors were allowed to do business there.

About 500 vendors attract between 1,500 and 2,500 customers every day the swap meet is open, she said.

The proposal would designate the commercial property as parkland. Hannemann said the city would have first option to buy the property, which Bishop Estate says is worth $19 million. He wants six years to find the money and work out a plan to take care of displaced vendors.

Hannemann also said he doesn't want more business in an already congested area. Mike Miura, a member of the Aiea Neighborhood Board, told the Planning Commission he also wants a park but the board hasn't voted on the issue.

Paul Cathcart, Bishop Estate's director for urban Oahu, told the commission that the estate opposed the park plan. "This is continuing the message that local government is anti-business," Cathcart said.

"We're not aggressively beating down the bush" to find a new lessee, Cathcart said. "Everybody must realize it's a desirable piece of land. A lot of people are calling us."

But if an attractive offer is made, the trustees will review it, Cathcart said. He added that vendors' concerns must be addressed and that the estate might consider allowing them to use other estate land.

Planning Commission Chairman Charlie Rodgers called the park proposal "totally repugnant."

Taking "a viable part of the economy and throwing these people out" was inappropriate, he said.

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