Thursday, June 21, 2001

Council OKs
of Waimea

But the city will give OHA time
to create a plan to buy the area

By Pat Omandam

Saying time is of the essence, the City Council has approved the condemnation of the 1,875-acre Waimea Valley.

But it left the door open for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs to gain control of the complete North Shore ahupua'a (mountain-to-sea division) if the board gets its act together and comes up with a business plan, said Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura.

"I think OHA needs to go back to the drawing board, and instead of just relying on ... the city's valuation of the property to set a price, they've got to go back and put together a comprehensive plan," Yoshimura said.

"If OHA comes back to us in 90 days (and) they have a plan ... they can buy the property from the city."

The Council approved a resolution by an 8-0 vote yesterday that allows the city to begin eminent-domain proceedings to acquire the land for $5.2 million. (Councilman Andy Mirikitani was excused while on trial facing federal felony charges.)

The OHA board last week voted to bid on the property after a licensed real estate firm verified there are no debts attached to it. Yesterday, however, Council members criticized OHA for not communicating its intentions with them.

Councilman John DeSoto, whose mother, A. Frenchy DeSoto, is a retired OHA trustee, said it has been difficult to gauge OHA's interest in Waimea Valley. He questions whether it is up to the task.

"And seeing that what's been happening with OHA in the first place, things are not that stable in that area," DeSoto said. "They can't even take care of what they're dealing with right now, so it becomes a concern."

North Shore resident Diane Anderson testified that given the choice, area residents support city control of the land, with OHA entering into a partnership at some future date.

"With all due respect to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, I do believe the citizens feel safer with a city acquisition," she said.

But not all agree. Councilman Romy Cachola favors deferral of the city condemnation until OHA can act on the matter. The Council voted 5-3 yesterday in favor of his resolution to defer the condemnation to give OHA a chance to buy it.

Cachola said doing so would save the city money. Also, OHA is in a better position of perpetuating the Hawaiian culture, he said.

"The city should not compete with OHA and should defer to OHA as long as needed," Cachola said. "Let us give OHA a chance to prove themselves. Let us not let them down."

Neither resolution passed by the Council has the effect of law. Mayor Jeremy Harris can proceed with condemnation or wait for OHA.

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