Wednesday, January 31, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Hale'iwa drive-through to be put to vote

By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau

HALEIWA — More than 30 North Shore residents traveled to Honolulu Hale yesterday to testify about legalizing drive-through windows in Haleiwa Town, a debate that promises to continue at least through next month.

After more than an hour of testimony, the City Council Zoning Committee passed a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Rene Mansho asking the city to look at changing Haleiwa’s land-use laws to allow drive-throughs. The decision sets the stage for a 7 p.m. informational meeting Feb. 15 at Haleiwa Elementary School, then a vote by the City Council on Feb. 21.

The decision disappointed Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land and one of 10 residents who spoke against the resolution. His group joined several North Shore residents in 1998 and sued to overturn an exception to the town’s historic district laws that allowed McDonald’s of Haleiwa to open a drive-through in 1997.

The variance was ruled illegal in Circuit Court last year, but the drive-through remains open pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court by McDonald’s restaurant owner Susan Smith.

"Everybody wants to know that when a law is passed, then that’s the law," said Curtis yesterday. "The meaning of this is that whenever a law goes the way you don’t want it to, you can violate it and ask for it to be rewritten. This keeps going on and on and on. It would be nice if there were a finality."

Smith, who supports Mansho’s proposal, said the committee’s decision will allow more residents on both sides of the issue to speak out. She pointed out that Mansho’s resolution asks that drive-throughs meet strict requirements. She said drive-throughs can revitalize the town’s economy.

Asked if changing the law will let her circumvent the courts, Smith said the Supreme Court will look at the variance process, while changing the laws is a different issue.

When Haleiwa’s historic district laws were enacted in the late 1980s, she said, Waialua’s sugar plantation was still providing jobs and the bypass road mauka of Haleiwa had not opened, making traffic in town a concern.

"The conditions and consumers’ needs have changed; they want more choices and convenience, so the environment is different," said Smith.

Zoning Committee members Duke Bainum and Romy Cachola argued against the resolution. Both said the council should wait for the Supreme Court to make a decision and that the community has already spoken against drive-throughs in the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan, a document adopted by the city last year.

To allow the "democratic process" to proceed, the resolution should stay alive, said committee chairman John DeSoto. Any change in the law will require reviews by the Planning Commission, the Department of Planning and Permitting, as well as the City Council, and more public testimony, he said.

"The more dialogue you have, the better it is," said DeSoto. "There’s a process this has to go through. If you allow it to go to the next stage, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen."

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