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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Lawyer questions Wal-Mart zoning

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A California land use attorney says that city officials here are violating their own zoning laws by not requiring a public hearing or environmental impact statement for a planned giant Wal-Mart store on the Ke'eaumoku "superblock."

Mark Wolfe, a professor of planning at the University of California-Berkeley, made the claim last night at a community meeting at the Makiki Christian Church. About 60 residents and members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, AFL-CIO who are opposed to the Wal-Mart attended the rally.

The union is against all Wal-Mart stores because of labor matters. It has joined a grass-roots organization known as CARD (Citizens Against Reckless Development) to fight the 10.5-acre "superblock" project.

Residents living near the project are concerned about an increase in traffic, pollution, noise and the effect the Wal-Mart complex will have on surrounding small businesses.

Wolfe, who was hired by the union to go over Honolulu's land use ordinance, said the planned 317,000-square-foot Wal-Mart complex is not consistent with existing zoning and requires further scrutiny.

That, Wolfe said, would mean a public hearing and environmental study to determine the store's effect on the community.

He said the existing zoning allows a mix of small-scale retail businesses, but nothing as large as the Wal-Mart proposal.

"To an outsider, objectively, it does not look like this store is consistent with the intent, the spirit and frankly the letter of the existing zoning," Wolfe said. "I was surprised to see that the city would have found that this was consistent with the zoning."

No representatives from Wal-Mart or the city administration attended last night's meeting. But Mayor Jeremy Harris' office has said it would ask the Department of Planning and Permitting to take another look at the information generated by the residents and experts hired by the union before issuing grading and foundation permits.

In addition to the double-decker Wal-Mart store, the complex would house a Sam's Club warehouse, parking structure, auto service center and miscellaneous retail stores.

Wolfe was one of three anti-Wal-Mart speakers brought in by the union to address the community last night. Steve Orosz, an engineer, spoke to the crowd by phone and said a traffic study done by Wal-Mart "low-balls" traffic estimates.

Phil Tucker, a union special projects representative, told the crowd that Wal-Mart participates in unfair labor practices, gets its goods from sweat shops in China, and enters communities with the intent of driving out the competition.

Tucker predicted that should Wal-Mart be allowed to open, from 25 to 30 percent of the stores at nearby Ala Moana Center will be "boarded up" in a few years.

"Wal-Mart has built its business on the bones of small-business people, and actually some fairly large corporations," Tucker said. To back his point, Tucker showed a video of residents from Hearnes, Texas, who charged that a Wal-Mart store destroyed their town.

Jack Hamada, a resident of Kanunu Street near the Daiei store, said he isn't opposed to the Wal-Mart plan. He said last night that he just wants Wal-Mart and the city to follow proper procedures.

"I want to make sure that if they are going to build it, that they're going to build it correctly for the whole community and not just for them," Hamada said. "At the rate they're going now, it's just for them."