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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 9, 2005

Waimea decision puts us on the right track

The City Council's stunning decision Wednesday to back away from a compromise deal for the future of Waimea Valley on O'ahu's North Shore hardly ends the drama.

The matter now goes back to the legal arena, where the city will either enter into negotiations with developer Christian Wolffer or let the matter go to trial over how much taxpayers should cough up for the historic property.

Either way, the council made the right choice. The deal on the table would have given the city some 300 acres of the park to be managed as a nature preserve by the Audubon Society while the remainder would be retained by Wolffer for low-impact luxury development and perhaps an "eco-camp" of some sort.

The deal-maker was the willingness of the Audubon Society, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Legislature to come up with money to help make a total purchase of the valley possible.

That's the right approach, since this rare, relatively undeveloped mountain-to-sea parcel is a treasure for the entire state, not just O'ahu.

There are echoes here of previous last-minute scrambles by the state to buy up and preserve from development other valleys along the Windward Coast, such as Kahana and Waiahole-Waikane.

Those efforts were successful in that they stopped what could have been massive urbanization of these valleys. They might be considered less than totally successful in that visions of thriving agricultural and/or cultural communities have yet to be fully realized.

Still, the opportunity to fulfill those visions remains. It would have been lost forever if those earlier valleys had been developed.

So the task ahead for the city is twofold: First, it must negotiate a price with Wolffer that is fair both to him and to the taxpayers. Then a vision must be developed that honors and enhances this legacy for generations to come.