Hearing set on Wal-Mart zoning appeal
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
The city Zoning Board of Appeals has tentatively scheduled a hearing Jan. 30 in response to a citizen group's concerns that the Ke'eaumoku "superblock" Wal-Mart project has been approved based on erroneous information.
The Citizens Against Reckless Development has appealed the Department of Planning and Permitting's determination that the plan to build a Wal-Mart store and Sam's Club is consistent with existing zoning requirements and does not require public hearings or environmental impact statements.
"We've asked the Zoning Appeals Board to use its authority to reverse the Department's action because we think it violates the spirit and also the letter (of the law)," said retired columnist Jim Becker, one of the organizers for the group.
Cynthia Lin, Wal-Mart spokeswoman, yesterday said Wal-Mart doesn't believe there's any basis for an appeal and still intends to proceed with the project. She said the property is already zoned to permit the project.
The property is zoned for "commercial business mixed use."
The board will meet Dec. 12 to address any procedural issues before the January contested case hearing when the board will discuss the merits of the case. A contested case hearing is a more formal proceeding in which parties can be represented by lawyers, call witnesses and cross-examine witnesses from other parties.
Loretta Chee, acting planning and permitting director, said that her department will continue to review the applications for building, grading and foundation permits Wal-Mart has already submitted. Once issued, she said the Zoning Board of Appeals does not have the authority to ask her department to revoke them.
She could not comment on what would happen if the group won the appeal because she was not certain what the decision the organization is appealing. "The director has not made any decision and hasn't actually issued any permits," she said.
Becker said he is pleased that the city will allow concerned parties the public hearing, which he said "will give us time to let the community understand what's really coming here - this monstrosity in a densely populated area."
Becker anticipates problems such as noise, increased traffic and nearby small businesses being hurt by the competition. "If at the end of the day that's what people want, then the people will be heard," he said.
Lin, however, said "while some neighbors may oppose the project, many more Honolulu residents support it and are looking forward to the store opening."
In May, Wal-Mart purchased the 10.5 acre property for an estimated $35 million, with plans to build a double-decker Sam's Club and Wal-Mart on the block bounded by Sheridan, Makaloa, Rycroft and Ke'eaumoku streets.
Wal-Mart plans to open the stores in spring 2004.
Reach Treena Shapiro at 525-8070 or firstname.lastname@example.org.