No straight path to a solution exists for the latest land-use conflict in Nanakuli, a community truly weary of hosting Oahu’s dumps. But the end goal supported by the city administration is the correct one: providing a regional park, with needed recreational facilities for sports teams.
The question is, how soon will the city be able to get there from here, given the confusion, legal and legislative, that must be cleared?
The probable answer: Kids now in neighborhood athletics will probably be up and out before anyone gets a chance to play on Nanakuli ball fields.
Regardless, the "better late than never" principle applies. City officials and elected leaders should put the project back on track for a full review, using the process that the voters helped to set up for that purpose.
That is the one created by a City Charter amendment in 2006, a vote that authorized the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund, as well as the commission that governs it. The administration of former Mayor Mufi Hannemann this year announced its intent to develop the park in Nanakuli and has made plans to finance the land purchase with $3 million from the fund.
But administration officials did not submit a proposal to the commission, proposing instead that the City Council reform the makeup and function of the panel. The critique — that the commission hasn’t shepherded enough projects through — seems unfounded, especially since some grant requests are in limbo for reasons unrelated to the commission. An overhaul at this point is unnecessary.
Ultimately, this fund would be an appropriate source of money for the park, despite assertions to the contrary in a new lawsuit. That court complaint was filed last week by Leeward Land Co., which owns the land the city now has designated for a park. Leeward’s sister company, PVT Land Co., operates the adjacent private landfill that takes in construction and demolition (C&D) debris. Leeward lawyers argue that its land should be used to landfill additional C&D rubbish. The location is debatable, of course, but one point is correct: A future debris landfill is needed, given that the construction of the city’s rail project will produce a lot of it.
Attorney Bruce Lamon said there are six to 10 years of life left in the existing landfill. That should give the city time to settle on where Oahu’s future construction trash might go. City spokesman Bill Brennan said a long-awaited search for alternative landfill sites — those suitable to accommodate conventional trash and those for construction debris — has begun. Again, better late than never.
The city has the right to revise its land-use plans when necessary to meet pressing community needs. And a park for Nanakuli should take priority in that valley. But let’s hope that the way forward from this point is less haphazard. Jumping through hoops can be a pointless exercise, but not where rational planning and community engagement is concerned.