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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 6, 2004

Development a top concern

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Worries about building development and traffic emerge as the top issues being voiced in Hawai'i Kai, where two first-time candidates have stepped forward to challenge two-term incumbent William "Bud" Stonebraker for the 17th House District.

Will Stonebraker

Paul Ah Yat

Rich Halverson

Paul Ah Yat and Rich Halverson face-off in the Sept. 18 Democratic primary for the opportunity to challenge the Republican Stonebraker in the Nov. 6 general election.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary faces a tough challenge in a staunch Republican district. In the 2002 gubernatorial election, Republican Linda Lingle trounced Democrat Mazie Hirono by a 6,766-to-3,799 margin.

Stonebraker ran unopposed two years ago. When he won the seat four years ago, he beat Democrat Greg Knudsen.

Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board chairman Lester Muraoka said the new developments have dominated the talk at recent board meetings.

"We're very concerned about the amount of growth and the type of development that's going on here that impacts the quality of life here in Hawai'i Kai," said Muraoka, 59, a senior project manager in the information technology business. "People are already beginning to see the impacts on our infrastructure, primarily on the highways and the shopping centers."

Development has become such a hot topic in Hawai'i Kai that a new watchdog group, Liveable Hawai'i Kai Hui, has sprung up in recent months.

Chief among its priorities is maintaining the roughly 87 acres of Kamilonui Valley as farmland, founder Elizabeth Reilly said.

All three District 17 candidates cited development and traffic as the top concern for the area.

A snapshot of District 17

According to the 2000 Census, Caucasians — at 29.6 percent — are the largest segment of the population in House District 17, which includes most of Hawai'i Kai and Kalama Valley. About 28.4 percent of the district checked themselves off as Japanese; 16.8 percent described themselves as being of two or more races; 9 percent listed themselves as Chinese.

It is a fairly middle-aged population, with about 30 percent of those over 18 listed in the 2000 Census as between 50 and 64, with 22 percent between 40 and 49, and 18 percent between 30 and 39. Of the remaining categories, 16 percent listed themselves as 65-plus, 11 percent as between 20 and 29, and 3 percent at 18-19.

Ah Yat said he does not believe that the residents of Hawai'i Kai community are well-informed about the projects and wants to ensure that won't be the case if he's elected.

"It's the responsibility of the legislator to inform the constituents in his area of all the things going on," Ah Yat said. The public "needs to get involved in the process sooner."

He described himself as a "pro-business Democrat" sensitive to the impacts of development. "There should be no new residential development until you can assess the situation on a larger scale with the whole community," he said.

Halverson said at least four new developments have sprung up in the district since he moved there four years ago.

Halverson also said he would support legislation that would keep developers accountable to those already living there.

"It's not that I don't think that developers should be able to develop; it's not that I don't think the landowner should get the fair value out of their land," he said. "But I would support making sure that the developers have addressed the effects that the new development would have on the infrastructure."

Stonebraker said he is also worried about the new homes going up but believes "the development that we have now has been approved and we'll have to do our best to manage that."

Stonebraker said he will continue to fight the raiding of the state's highway fund. That money could be used to fix the multitude of potholes along Kalaniana'ole Highway.

He said he intends to talk to the Land Use Commission about the possibility of introducing legislation that would create a greenbelt that would preserve remaining, undeveloped land in Hawai'i Kai.

All three also mentioned education as a top priority.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.