Jul 09, 2016
By Gordon Y.K. Pang, Honolulu Star Advertiser
The Honolulu City Council signed off on two development projects this week: a commercial building in Haleiwa and, for a second time, conceptual plans for Ritz-Carlton condo-hotel towers already going up in Waikiki.
Plans to put up a single-story commercial building next to the culturally sensitive Loko Ea Pond in Haleiwa won final approval, 9-0, from the Council on Wednesday despite lingering opposition.
Resolution 16-133 gives Lokea Kai Partners a special management area use permit for a 5,200-square-foot commercial building on the site of a former gas station. A surf shop and one or two “low impact” tenants are planned for the space.
Attorney David “Kimo” Frankel of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., who represents North Shore resident Malia Evans, had urged the Council to hold off approval until his client could fully explain her opposition.
The city’s own analysis so far “is very narrow, circumscribed and inappropriate” given the historical and cultural significance of the neighboring fishpond, Frankel said, particularly regarding the visual impact and water quality issues.
“Given the traditional and customary practices that would be adversely affected, you are denying due process by not allowing for meaningful comments on this permit application,” he said.
Bill Quinlan, a member of the North Shore Outdoor Circle and North Shore Chamber of Commerce, called the pond one of the most significant Hawaiian cultural sites on Oahu. Community members, including the North Shore Land Trust, have reached out to the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust, fee owner of the commercial property, with a proposal for a cultural museum that would provide the same income as the Lokea Kai proposal.
But Lili‘uokolani trust Vice President LeeAnn Crabbe said the nonprofit has no desire to change its agreement with Lokea Kai, and that the project improves runoff issues at the site and installs a septic system “that goes beyond basic Department of Health requirements.”
Crabbe said the project meets Haleiwa Special District design requirements and the uses allowed under the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan. No formal offer has been made to the trust by project opponents, and “we have no evidence of any traditional or customary practices taking place on this particular parcel.”
Councilman Ikaika Anderson said he was empathetic to the concerns of project opponents, but given the trust’s intent not to consider any alternative proposals, the city “would be open to liability and potential legal challenges “from the landowner,” he said.
Council Chairman Ernie Martin, who represents the North Shore, said he asked Anderson to slow the progress of the resolution to allow parties to discuss a possible agreement.
Meanwhile, the Council voted 9-0 to approve Resolution 16-155, giving the OK to a conceptual plan for a retail, hotel and residential Ritz-Carlton project on Kuhio Avenue sought by Pacrep LLC.
It was the second time Council members approved plans for construction of two 350-foot condo-hotel towers connected by an eight-story podium. About 553 units are planned.
The first, 307-unit tower at 2121 Kuhio Ave. has already been built, and the foundation has been poured for the second, 246-unit tower. A glitch with Pacrep’s original building agreement forced the developer to seek new permits.
The project has met continued opposition from Waikiki residents.
Robert Finley, Waikiki Neighborhood Board chairman, said the board voted 13-1, with two abstentions, to oppose the project. The zoning map allows for towers of up to 300 feet, but the permits issued by the Council allow as high as 350 feet, he said. The project also is being allowed less open space than is usually permitted under the Waikiki Special District plan, he said.
Representatives for several pro-development groups gave testimony supporting the project.