Wednesday, September 8, 1999

Ko Olina
developers offer
some details

The city council drops a
downzone resolution

By Russ Lynch


The developers who took over the Ko Olina resort a year ago told the City Council they have a contract with a national home builder to develop 1,500 condominium units alongside the Ko Olina Gold Club's 18-hole course.

And, they said, Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International Inc. has agreed to spend more than $250 million to develop a 750-unit time-share property at Ko Olina and expects to generate revenues of $750 million from sales of the units.

Those moves were among examples cited by the Ko Olina Companies at a city council zoning committee yesterday that began with committee chairman John DeSoto saying he would drop his resolution to downzone much of Ko Olina to preservation lands.

The resolution would have limited development to 400 tourist accommodation units, down from the current zoning of 4,000. That would effectively kill development and warn outside investors that Hawaii is not a good place to do business, development supporters said.

But DeSoto said his resolution had been necessary to "hold their feet to the fire," to get information that developers had not been providing.

Jeff Stone, one of the developers of the West Oahu property, told the committee meeting that much of the information could not have been provided earlier because of ongoing negotiations.

Stone apologized for that and said that he received permission only hours before the council meeting to disclose the Marriott time-share project information.

But he stressed that killing the downzone resolution was the only way to avoid killing the Marriott deal.

As about 100 West Oahu residents and supporters arrived at City Hall, they were handed Ko Olina Resort & Marina hats and information kits provided by the developers.

Aside from a few concerns over traffic, access and water -- all of which DeSoto said had been taken care of by the original 1987 zoning that allowed the start of the 1,000-plus-acre resort -- testimony at the meeting was strongly in favor of the development.

Bob Armstrong, chairman of government affairs for the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, warned for example of the damage such a downzoning resolution could do.

"Don't create the wrong kind of image. We don't want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal again," Armstrong said, referring to national publicity that has characterized Hawaii's investment climate as negative.

After the committee members voted unanimously to kill the downzoning measure, Stone said in an interview that he is still not in a position to disclose many details of other possible developments at Ko Olina. But he did say the 1,500-unit condominium project will be "wholly owned" units, as aside from time-share units. He did not disclose the name of the national home builder for the condo project.

Other announcements will come later, he said. In statements over the weekend, Stone's group talked of plans to bring more than $1 billion to the area, creating thousands of jobs, including immediate commitments for $10 million in construction and $1 million for shoreline park amenities.

DeSoto said he had heard that sort of promise for more than a decade and if yesterday's promises aren't met, he could bring back his downzone resolution.

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