A developer is still being sought for the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, with the Land Board voting yesterday to have potential operators take into account input from a citizens' committee.

Citizens provide input
in privatized harbor

But some on the Ala Wai panel
fear private managers may ignore
the Land Board vote

By Diana Leone

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources voted yesterday to require private companies bidding to operate the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor to take into consideration recommendations of a citizens' committee.

After the board vote, however, some members of the Ala Wai Harbor Ad Hoc Committee warned that with the way the Land Board worded its action, private harbor managers could ignore any or all of its guidelines.

"It's what we expected them to do," said Noa Napoleon, one of 15 committee members representing the wishes of harbor users. "We expect some or most of our recommendations to be altered or omitted by the bidders."

Among the committee suggestions, which were released Thursday, are calls for no commercial boating, no significant change in the number of slips for rent, no buildings over 25 feet tall and at least 200 free parking spaces on the makai end of the harbor

The group also endorsed an expansion of the nonprofit Hawaii Yacht Club, development of a restaurant and shops atop a bermed parking structure, better sidewalks and overall improved appearance.

For more than two hours yesterday, the board heard surfers and others express concerns that a private harbor operator would attempt to shut them out of beach access and free parking.

"No matter what the board does, I'm not going to be supporting any kind of action that denies public access," board member Tim Johns told about 50 people at yesterday's meeting.

Johns proposed that the Land Board require bidders to explain if they do not meet any of the ad hoc committee's recommendations and why.

Charles Brown, representing Westrec Marinas, told the board that his company, a potential bidder to manage the harbor, supports "90 percent" of the committee's recommendations.

Westrec would object to designating the old heliport area as a city park, because of concerns that dealing with another government agency would take more time and money, Brown said after the meeting. But the company would have no problem designating the area as parkland in its still-to-be-created proposal for managing the harbor, he said.

At yesterday's meeting, Brown said his company might stage luaus or other money-making events in the heliport area in the evenings. After the meeting, he explained that a for-profit activity would not mean the public is kept out, but that dual uses would occur at the same time.

"The area has always been open to the public and whatever action took place there would only be after consulting with surfers and everyone else," he said.

Immediately after Brown spoke of nighttime luaus, surfer advocate George Downing told the Land Board: "This is why you cannot allow long-term leases to take place here.

"This is a public area and it's got to be kept open for the public."

In December, the Land Board approved a process for selecting a developer for the privatization of its 10-acre, 799-slip Ala Wai Harbor.

Having now received input from the citizens' committee, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation staff will begin drafting a request for proposals. A selection committee will negotiate terms with qualified bidders, then the Land Board would have to approve any contract.

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