Thursday, September 23, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Council members
questioning land swap
for park in Waipio

They say they want to be sure the
city is getting a fair exchange
in the transaction

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


City Council members have raised questions about a land swap for a regional park near Waipio.

Despite the concerns, the Council yesterday approved the land exchange unanimously.

The 269-acre park site has been appraised at $12.7 million.

In exchange, the city is giving landowner Castle & Cooke Properties 37 acres collectively called the Manager's Drive parcels, valued at $8.2 million, and $4.5 million cash.

Councilman Duke Bainum said the appraisals for both properties were over 2 years old and that the Manager's Drive was only a limited scope appraisal.

"My concern is whether or not the city is getting a good value for this land exchange," Bainum said.

Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim said the Waiola appraisal appears to have been based on the potential for new housing there when the city has rejected proposals for such development for the past several decades.

"I really think we're being shortchanged here because that land could never be zoned for homes or housing and therefore should not be appraised at that value," Kim said.

Randy Fujiki, city director of design and construction, said the $12.7 million assessment was one of two done by the city.

A second came in at $14 million while Castle & Cooke's own numbers showed the lowest assessment was $14.3 million.

Fujiki also said all the assessments were based on agricultural rather than residential use.

Kim said she recalls a closed-door meeting several months ago where she was told the assessments were based on potential for housing. Bainum said he remembers the same thing.

Harry Saunders, Castle & Cooke senior vice president, said factoring in development potential would have put the assessment at anywhere from $20 million to $49 million.

"We're willing to accept ($12.7 million) but it's less than what we wanted," Saunders said.

Kim said it's well-known that "appraisers have wide latitude in making certain assumptions" to determine values. Appraisals for land deals involving property in Aina Haina and downtown's Block J have also been question in recent years, she noted.

"We need to be consistent with the city because we are dealing with the fiscal matters of the taxpayers," she said.

"There's seemingly a lack of clarity in the appraisal process here, and I think we need some policy guidelines for such appraisals and they need to be consistent," Bainum said, adding that the Real Property Division should be involved in the process.

Work on the park, which will be bigger than Kapiolani and Ala Moana parks combined, will begin in the coming months.

The first phase will include two regulation baseball fields, four youth baseball fields and five all-purpose fields.

There will also be a 262-car parking lot.


Other measures acted on by the City Council yesterday:

Bullet Final approval for a two-story commercial building on Palolo Avenue just mauka of the Palolo McDonald's. The vote was 6-3. Several Council members said they fear noise and traffic problems from commercial encroachment into a bedroom community.

Bullet Gave the second of three approvals for a bill banning smoking in most areas of the open-air Waikiki Shell.

Bullet Preliminary approval for a bill allowing the city to regulate power lines, a proposal opposed by the Hawaiian Electric Co.

Bullet Preliminary approval to a bill that would curtail the activities of canines deemed "dangerous dogs."

Bullet Preliminary approval to a bill requiring that identification cards -- often sold to underaged minors --be labeled as "souvenir only." Councilman Andy Mirikitani says the minors use the IDs to get alcoholic drinks at bars.

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