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Thursday, October 19, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

Mirikitani, Felix
want city to buy
Paradise Park

The Council members say the
property should be acquired
for the public

Council OKs Haleiwa 'eco-tourism' camp

By Mary Adamski

Two City Council members are proposing that the city acquire Paradise Park, rain-forest land deep in Manoa Valley that was formerly operated as a tropical bird and botanical garden tourist attraction.

Councilmen Andy Mirikitani and John Henry Felix introduced a resolution yesterday calling for acquisition of the park "for continuation as a recreational, educational, botanical and environmental and scenic resource available to the public."

The proposal came at a meeting where the Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for city acquisition of Waimea Valley on Oahu's North Shore, also the site of a commercial scenic park.

"Honolulu's urban center residents also deserve their fair share of tax dollars being used for a major nature preserve," said Mirikitani in a release. "Paradise Park offers the potential for a variety of public benefits such as passive recreation and botanical preservation activities and therefore it is an appropriate acquisition for the city."

The site at the end of Manoa Road is part of 152 acres owned by the Roman Catholic Church. The city real property assessment for the total acreage was $1,782,000 this year, said Patrick Downes, of the Honolulu diocese.

The operators of Paradise Park control 47.5 acres under a lease that continues through 2041, Downes said. He said church officials have not seen the resolution and had no comment.

"We do have inquiries. We haven't talked price," said Darryl Wong, president of Imperial Associates, which is owned by James W.Y. Wong and his family. "We have a master lease on the property. We are looking at potential buyers as well as potential redevelopment of it."

Wong, who was general manager of Paradise Park, said the botanical garden occupied 16 acres of the site. The park, which attracted 300,000 visitors a year at the peak of its 25 years of operation, was closed in 1994 because of dwindling business.

Some of the land is now leased to growers of exotic flowers, said Wong. The restaurant, Treetops at Paradise Park, is still open for parties and receptions.

The parcels held by the Wongs were assessed at $1.18 million valuation this year, according to city real property records.

Wong said: "I tried before to get the state and city involved, or even the University of Hawaii. It's a great property to utilize for the community, a great resource."

He said the Catholic Church, as landowner, "has final consent of anything we decide to do. The key is, what is the price?" Mirikitani's did not specify how much of the property should be acquired.

"Rather than have it wind up in private hands, a natural resource like this should be preserved for all the people," Felix said. He said the timing of the resolution was not linked to the proposal to acquire Waimea Valley. Some 300 acres of the 1,875-acre valley are occupied by Waimea Valley Adventure Park. New York investor Christian Wolffer has had it on the market for $25 million since July.

Carol Costa, spokeswoman for Mayor Jeremy Harris, said the mayor has not seen the resolution and would not comment until he reviews it.

City & County of Honolulu

City & County of Honolulu

Council OKs
Haleiwa ‘eco-tourism’

The developer's plan calls for 72
tent-like structures to be built in
Haleiwa; opponents say they'll
weigh litigation options

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The votes of new councilmen Romy Cachola and Gary Okino proved to be the difference in approving a controversial eco-camp project for tourists on the North Shore.

The 6-3 vote granted a special management area use permit clearing the way for the Pua'ena Camp project in Haleiwa.

Camper Village LLC's plan calls for 72 "tentlike" structures -- resembling those found on Molokai Ranch -- on 145 acres sandwiched between Haleiwa Beach Park and Papailoa Street.

The vote on the project had been postponed for months, presumably because there were neither five votes to either move it out nor to kill it. In July, the application appeared close to dead when Mufi Hannemann and Donna Mercado Kim resigned to run for other offices, leaving three members leaning for, three leaning against and one neutral.

Camp proponents say it would bring needed jobs and help bolster neighboring Haleiwa businesses without being an eyesore on the landscape.

Proponents also like that the developer is putting up a hula pavilion and canoe-building site for the community and will improve access to Pua'ena Point by providing parking and overnight camping facilities.

Opponents of the project say the developer should not have been allowed to obtain a permit that essentially allows it to construct and operate overnight accommodations in an agricultural area.

The developer should instead have been forced to go through the more stringent zoning process to change its land from agricultural to resort designation, says the Friends to Preserve Pua'ena Point group and other opponents.

Okino, a longtime city planner, said just before the vote that he carefully weighed the pros and cons before making a decision.

Okino said the project would even be good for those living along Papailoa Road, among those objecting loudest, by providing an open-space buffer.

After the vote, Cachola, a former chairman of the state House Tourism Committee, said that "we need new attractions like eco-tourism to appeal to visitors."

Warren Scoville, a representative for Friends to Preserve Pua'ena Point, said the organization's members must huddle to see if they want to pursue litigation.

Earlier, the group said it had filed a complaint with the city Ethics Commission alleging Council Planning Chairman John DeSoto is in a conflict of interest on the Pua'ena issue.

DeSoto's wife owns a horse ranch near the project. Opponents said the DeSoto ranch would benefit if the project is completed.

DeSoto, in response, said he has never talked to Pua'ena's principals and that his wife's ranch does not intend to offer activities geared for tourists.

City & County of Honolulu

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