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Sunday, November 23, 2014         

UNDER THE SUN


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Development foes find new cause to rally around

By Cynthia Oi

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A tug-of-war over a scrap of land in Haleiwa is quickly recognizable as a typical skirmish in Hawaii.

On one side, there's a developer who wants to build something; on the other, individuals and community groups joined in the familiar "Save Our"-prefaced coalition to prevent that from happening.

The matter would be routine except that the land involved belongs to the city.

Four decades ago, the city took possession of the land from private landowners -- among them the then-Bishop Estate -- through eminent domain, the process government uses to expropriate properties for the public good. The intent was to expand a municipal park.

Now, city officials are thinking about selling the four acres on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway near Haleiwa Beach Park so a well-connected and unapologetic developer can build an 80-room boutique hotel.

Though more than 40 years have passed, taking from private owners to sell to another private enterprise doesn't really qualify as public benefit.

In this conflict, the routine arguments for land development arise -- that a hotel will bring in tax revenue, produce a smatter of temporary well-paying jobs and permanent low-paying jobs and spruce up an area mainly used for supplemental beach parking.

The arguments against are equally predictable. Haleiwa has had a long history of resisting projects many of its residents and some business owners see as intruding on their lifestyle and the ambiance of a beach town. That that has been eroded by legions of tourists is a continual push and pull for the community as the need for tourist dollars smashes against the desire to keep what's left of Oahu's country country. A hotel, small as it may be, will undoubtedly change the nature of the area.

From beneath this business-as-usual muck, however, emerges the question of why this initiative is in the works at all.

The project is the brainchild of D.G. "Andy" Anderson, the former state legislator, restaurant owner and ally of past and present politicos. His connections and smarts will come into play if for nothing else than his knowledge of working the system.

Not all of Anderson's proposals through the years have worked out well. His idea for shops, restaurants, a mini-golf course and a 130-foot-high Ferris wheel in Kakaako was roundly rejected a few years back.

Others have been financially successful, like at Velzyland. There, he tore down low-rent old houses and apartments and built multimillion-dollar homes behind gates and walls on land the city had once hoped to buy for a park, but couldn't afford.

Anderson promised to provide public access to the shoreline, but he can't be faulted for the city's lame-brain decision to accept his substandard road to the beach that has been closed since it was put in eight years ago.

As part of his "win-win" hotel plan, Anderson has pledged to give to the community half of the Haleiwa land for a "private public park," whatever that means. But the public's gaining half of what it already has, coupled with city officials' inability to see promises fulfilled, doesn't sound like much of a deal.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at coi@staradvertiser.com.






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