Friday, May 25, 2001

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OHA hopes to delay
Waimea condemnation

By Pat Omandam

Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees hope to persuade the City Council to delay next week's vote on condemning Waimea Falls Adventure Park while OHA considers buying the property.

Two OHA committees on Tuesday will vote on the purchase of the 1,875-acre North Shore attraction, as well as on changing the agency's investment policy to allow the large land purchase.

Trustee John D. Waihee IV, who is spearheading OHA's interest in the property, said earlier this week that the City Council will decide on Wednesday whether to condemn the property or defer a vote until the June 20 meeting to give OHA time to signal the Council on its intention.

If approved by the joint committees next week, the proposal goes to OHA's Budget Committee, headed by Oz Stender. Finally, it must be approved by the board before the City Council meets in June.

Waihee admits the timeline for his plan is short and it may not work, but he has to try.

"We have to do it," he said. "The city is going to give us a chance to take a position, so if it fails or whatever, we should let them know."

But there is no guarantee a majority of trustees will agree on obtaining the park.

"I'm not sure if the outcome will be some kind of action," said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona. "It may be discussion."

OHA has more than $325 million in investments but no real land holdings to diversify its portfolio. It leases the Waialua Courthouse and owns a heiau.

Waihee supports the purchase so OHA can preserve Waimea Valley and convert it into a cultural and historical attraction dedicated to Hawaiians. One lure would be the federal conservation money that could be available under such a proposal.

New York businessman Christian Wolffer, the park's owner, put the site up for sale for $25 million in August. The park was put under bankruptcy protection in April after the operator filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.

The city has earmarked $5.2 million for the site in the event it condemns the park.

Waihee has suggested OHA offer no more than 10 percent above the city's $5.2 million offer and work with the city in developing a cultural preserve.

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