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Wednesday, October 25, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

2 of 3 park plans
progress to Council;
Royal Kunia held

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Two out of three proposals to have the city buy troubled properties and turn them into parks and recreation facilities are moving forward in the City Council.

A proposal to have the city turn Waimea Valley on the North Shore into a city park advanced out of a City Council committee yesterday. Another plan, to buy the former Paradise Park in Manoa, also is moving forward despite the objections of Paradise Park's owner.

A third proposal, to turn the private Royal Kunia Golf Course into a municipal course, was held in the Planning and Public Safety Committee.

North Shore Councilwoman Rene Mansho is proposing that the city begin the process that could lead to the city condemning and buying the 1,875-acre property. The property has been on the market for $25 million since July, but city officials say it has been valued at $5.1 million for tax purposes.

The resolution to turn Waimea Valley into a park has the support of a manager and employees of Waimea Valley Adventure Park, which occupies part of the land.

However, Councilman Andy Mirikitani's plan to have the city condemn and buy Paradise Park in Manoa met with opposition from the owner of the former Paradise Park.

Darryl Wong, vice president for Paradise Park, called for the Council to hold off on condemning the property because his company is working to reopen the facility with the help of outside investors.

Paradise Park controls 47.5 acres of the 152-acre site owned by the Roman Catholic Church. The park shut down in 1994 because of the poor economy, Wong told the committee. The company and investors now want the facility to reopen in a "low-key" mode that emphasizes education and preservation.

But Mirikitani said, "Just as with the Waimea (Valley) proposal, acquiring Paradise Park would provide a rare opportunity to ensure that this property is kept in preservation and used as an environmental and education facility for future generations."

Mansho disagreed with the comparison, noting that unlike the Waimea owners, the Paradise Park owners have potential investors who want to preserve it, including the Center for Conservation Research and Training at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

"I have a concern when a private property owner has a chance to entertain outside investors," Mansho said. Councilman Gary Okino said he is "concerned that the city is getting into too many projects it doesn't need to get into."

At the same time, he said, beginning the process to turn the facility into a park at this point would not harm Paradise Park's owners and could actually spur activity involving the site.

The parcels under the Wongs' control has been assessed at $1.18 million, and the total acreage is assessed at $1.78 million.

Discussion on a resolution to begin looking into buying the Royal Kunia Golf Course was deferred. The property owner's attorney, Bert Kobayashi Jr., is out of town. The golf course has never opened because the owners have yet to pay a $13 million impact fee owed to the city.

City & County of Honolulu

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