City Council advances Waimea Valley deal
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer
The Honolulu City Council yesterday approved the first legal step toward the city acquiring scenic Waimea Valley through condemnation but minutes later formally urged Mayor Jeremy Harris to defer that action until the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has an opportunity to buy the property.
City Councilmen John DeSoto, Steve Holmes and Chairman Jon Yoshimura voted against a resolution asking the city to defer purchase of Waimea Valley until the Office of Hawaiian Affairs had an opportunity to buy the property.
Yoshimura said the condemnation step taken by the council automatically triggers acquisition, so "it doesn't make sense" to support both resolutions. He said OHA later could work to purchase it from the city.
Councilman Duke Bainum said he believed the council's actions show a need to preserve the property while giving OHA a chance to buy it. "I admit that voting for both resolutions may look schizophrenic, but I don't think it is schizophrenic."
But Holmes said it sends a mixed message: "I think we need to send a strong signal from this council that we're serious about protecting the natural resources of Waimea Valley."
The 1,875-acre valley on O'ahu's North Shore includes a landmark waterfall, streams, native forests, an arboretum with rare and endangered plants from Hawai'i and the South Pacific and several significant archaeological sites. It also features the 300-acre Waimea Valley Adventure Park and more than 1,500 acres of undeveloped land.
Yoshimura said he believes the council will approve the condemnation move. If that assessment proves accurate, the next important step will be to determine what price the city will pay the owner.
In August, New York investor Christian Wolffer put the property of the money-losing adventure theme park up for sale.
The asking price is $25 million but the land is assessed at $5 million.
OHA trustee John Waihe'e IV has been the most vocal supporter of OHA taking over the historic valley.
At the City Council meeting, his aide, Crayn Akina, said Waihe'e envisions OHA's goals with the property as "mostly" preservation with a potential for running cultural programs there.
Correction: City Councilmen John DeSoto, Steve Holmes and Chairman Jon Yoshimura voted against a resolution asking the city to defer purchase of Waimea Valley until the Office of Hawaiian Affairs had an opportunity to buy the property. An editing error made the purpose of their vote unclear in a previous version of this story.