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Saturday, December 20, 2014         

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Bills target isle harbors for private development

Boat owners worry about conflicts wedding chapels and other enterprises would bring

By Dan Nakaso

POSTED:


A handful of bills allowing increased privatization of Hawaii’s harbors was kept alive at the Legislature yesterday despite opposition of some boat owners who also worry about separate development proposals to bring wedding chapels to the state’s largest recreational boat harbor.

Plans to resurrect the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor’s defunct and dilapidated boat repair business, build a training center for the U.S. national kayak team and construct shops, restaurants and two wedding chapels among the harbor’s operations are on a separate track from the harbor bills moving through the Legislature.

But some Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor tenants such as Les Parsons see the two issues coming together to create a contentious harbor environment.

“We’re concerned about these onerous bills that come our way year after year,” said Parsons, who testified against one of the harbor public-privatization bills. “We basically have our torches and pitchforks ready.”

Honey Bee USA Inc. plans to build two wedding chapels, aimed at Japanese tourists, overlooking the Ala Wai harbor and Magic Island to offset the costs of running the fuel dock and boat repair businesses.

Parsons called Honey Bee’s plans “the camel’s nose under the tent. It seems to be inconsistent to get married next to a place that’s pumping diesel fuel. What else will they put there and squeeze out facilities for the boat owners?”

Reg White, who also lives at the Ala Wai harbor, believes the public-private bills moving through the Legislature are unnecessary and has told lawmakers so in testimony.

Instead, White said in an interview, lawmakers should allow newly appointed Department of Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila, the former harbor master at the Waianae Small Boat Harbor, to “show what he can do.”

“These bills are superfluous, and the whole pile of them should be thrown in the shredder,” White said. “They’re trying to mandate what DLNR is already doing.”

While White opposed HB 1312, one of several similarly worded bills, Honolulu attorney Keith Kiuchi testified that the bill encourages the type of public-private partnerships that will lead to harbor improvements at a “time when the state does not have the money to develop these properties.”

Kiuchi represents Honey Bee USA, which has paid the state a $150,000 development fee for its plans for the Ala Wai harbor and continues to pay the state $15,000 per month as it awaits approval for three permits from the city Department of Planning and Permitting.

Honey Bee is required to operate Ala Wai’s fuel dock and boat repair businesses. But Kiuchi, who used to represent the owner of the boat repair business, said the old operation lost $5,000 per month and could not keep up with the property taxes.

So Honey Bee went looking for ways to generate additional revenue for its $14 million project and decided to develop wooden buildings that will house shops and restaurants, as well as separate wedding chapels operated by wedding businesses and which would close by 6 p.m. each day, Kiuchi said.

Honey Bee is led by Japanese developer Hideaki Shimakura, a competitive yacht racer who primarily develops office buildings in Japan.

The company had never redeveloped a boat harbor and has no experience in the wedding business, Kiuchi said.

Kiuchi could not think of another small boat harbor that also houses wedding chapels, but said the idea makes sense at Ala Wai harbor, in part because it is near Waikiki.

One of the potential wedding chapel operators also wants to market to Chinese and Korean visitors, which coincides with efforts by Hawaii tourism officials, Kiuchi said.

The money-generating chapels are needed to “subsidize the boat repair facility and the fuel dock,” Kiuchi said. “Anybody who believes the boat repair operation can be renovated without substantial income is sadly mistaken.”

But the weddings would have to work around the state’s largest boat harbor, Kiuchi said, and boat repairs would not be shut down for any wedding.

“We want something that’s not going to disturb the people in the harbor,” Kiuchi said. “Both of the wedding chapels have been told that they have to live with the fuel dock and boat repair operation, and not the other way around.”

While some harbor tenants continue to oppose Honey Bee’s plans, as well as bills encouraging even more public-private partnerships, Kiuchi said the bills are necessary to help streamline development at Hawaii’s harbors.

For now, Honey Bee only has plans for the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, Kiuchi said.

But the company, he said, “is interested in discussing any development with the state regarding the state’s harbor properties.”

RENOVATING THE ALA WAI SMALL BOAT HARBOR

Honey Bee USA’s $14 million plans for the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor are scheduled to take six to seven months to build once permits are approved and ground is broken.

» Four-story, wooden building along Ala Moana Boulevard will house restaurants and shops.

» Two-story, wooden building along the Ala Wai channel also will include shops and a boating supply store.

» Rebuild the boat repair business into a two-deck, open-air structure that will have 52 parking spaces below and 17,000 square feet above for boat

repairs.

» Rebuild the boat harbor’s fuel dock into a 5,000-square-foot facility that will include a wedding chapel on the second floor which would house wedding parties of 10 to 12 people. The building also would include 1,400 square feet of space for the U.S. National Kayak Team.

» Construct a 4,500-square-foot, two-story “Wharf Building” on the makai-ewa corner of the harbor which will include restaurants and another wedding chapel.

HOUSE BILL 1312

What it says:

“In these times of economic malaise and with the State facing a massive budget deficit over the next biennium, a further decline in the State’s small boat harbors would be a huge loss that the State cannot allow. The purpose of this Act is to authorize the department of land and natural resources to use the request for proposals process to enter into a public-private partnership for the development of portions of Ala Wai boat harbor facilities that are presently underused, to maximize the revenue potential from those facilities.”






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