Public will get say
on Wal-Mart proposal

A city official says the hearing
will not affect the permit processing
for the superblock site

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The city Zoning Board of Appeals has agreed to schedule a contested case hearing for a group of lower Makiki residents who are raising questions about a Wal-Mart/Sam's Club complex at the "superblock" on Keeaumoku Street.

Members of Citizens Against Reckless Development say they want the city to review the project, look at its impacts and hear what they and other neighbors have to say about it.


"We maintain that the spirit, and we think the letter, of the Land Use Ordinance requires a project of this magnitude to have a public hearing," said Jim Becker, a member of the group.

The complex will have an estimated 300,000 square feet of retail space and is expected to bring 20,000 cars a day into the neighborhood, Becker said.

Cynthia Lin, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company sees no basis for an appeal.

"This site is zoned for commercial use," she said.

The retailer has been working with the city and neighbors for several years to meet all concerns, Lin said.

The opponents still have a long way to go if they intend to stop the project from being built.

The zoning board must decide if the Department of Planning and Permitting made an erroneous decision and whether the board has the authority to overturn that decision.

A procedural hearing will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 12. The actual hearing is tentatively slated for 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 30. Both meetings will be held at the City Hall Annex building on the Diamond Head side of Honolulu Hale.

The opponents say a ruling, at some point, was made that the project is consistent with the zoning requirements of the area and that no discretionary reviews or approvals were necessary.

The property is in the middle of the Ala Moana business district and has been zoned commercial-residential mixed use since 1986, according to acting Planning and Permitting Director Lorrie Chee. Before that, it was changed to business zoning in 1969, and before that, it was general industrial, Chee said.

The Department of Planning and Permitting is currently reviewing grading, foundation and building permits for the project. And while opponents are hoping to delay the project, the contested case hearing will not affect the processing of the permits, Chee said.

"They are ministerial permits and we're reviewing them as such," she said.

Chee said retailing and "a limited amount of wholesaling" is permitted on the commercial-residential mixed-use site.

"We're considering this to be a retail establishment, like a department store," she said, noting that other Sam's Club and Costco outlets are in industrial mixed use or business districts.

Wal-Mart has promised to widen neighborhood streets, she said.

"It's in everyone's interest to keep traffic flowing smoothly," Lin said.

Further, Wal-Mart will add traffic signals, screen its service docks with landscaping and install low-impact street lighting, she said.


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