EXCLUSIVE: 30 years after city was promised Ko Olina beach land, - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: 30 years after city was promised Ko Olina beach land, councilman wants it

KO OLINA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The vice chairman of the Honolulu City Council parks committee wants developers of Ko Olina to fulfill a 30-year-old promise and turn park land along its lagoons over to the city.

The original developer of Ko Olina, West Beach Estates, promised to turn over large beach parks and the walkways that connect them to the city in exchange for getting approval to build massive resorts and four man-made lagoons as part of a 1984 agreement with the state Land Use Commission.

Those promises are still governing the resort, even though it is now owned by developer Jeff Stone. But the resort continues to own the land and the city has not taken possession of it.

Ko Olina Development company allows limited public access from dawn to dusk at beach front park areas.

The company said it spends $8 million a year maintaining the manicured grass and beaches there, along with the public restrooms which are much cleaner and nicer than most city park facilities.

"My concern is that as long as the parks remain under private ownership, I don't think we can say that there is ever going to be a guarantee that those parks are going to be made available to the residents for their use in perpetuity," said Council member Ron Menor, who's vice chair of the council parks committee. He said the city needs to take possession of the parks.

"By transferring those parks to the city, we ensure that those parks are going to be available for public use," Menor said.

Ko Olina Development released a statement, saying: "... the city has enjoyed use of a privately developed and maintained park site. Based on the level of maintenance required, the consistent request from the county has been they would prefer these parks continue under private ownership."

Michelle Toribio of Waipahu goes to Ko Olina beach with her family every other month. She's worried the city won't have the money to maintain this area properly.

"I know the upkeep is going to change. It's going to start looking like Ala

Moana," Toribio said. "It's going to look dirty, not well kept. Cigarette butts all over the place, bathrooms going to be dirty. You're going to start seeing people come over here, the homeless for one thing."

John Shockley of Makakilo, another member of the public who uses the beaches and lagoons, said, "This is all depending on whether the city is willing or capable of keeping up the level of cleanliness that we have, the ambiance of the place. If they can, the city should be here."

Shockley said increased public parking is badly needed at Ko Olina where nearly 200 free parking stalls are available, but they fill up on weekends and holidays such as Good Friday.

"Right now they're blocked off, mainly by parking. Access is fine. Parking is not," Schockley said.

A Ko Olina Development spokeswoman said even though the resort is required to provide 150 free parking stalls, it makes 197 of them available to the public. Additional paid parking is available for a $10 flat rate at one lot at Ko Olina and nearby resorts charge their own higher rates for parking.

Menor said he hopes the city can work out a public-private partnership with Ko Olina Development.

"The Ko Olina company would, perhaps assist us in maintaining the parks while at the same time, the city would assume ownership over it," Menor said.

A spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said there are no immediate plans to move forward with a deal for the city to take over portions of the resort property, “but the mayor would be open to reviewing further.”

Kymberly Pine, chair of the Honolulu City Council parks committee, said “I am very concerned that we cannot afford the level of service that we demand for our current parks. Taking on new parks when we cannot afford our current parks is problematic.”

“The best solution in this case for Ko Olina to fulfill its obligation would be to pay to maintain and build these parks as promised while ensuring public access similar to current city parks,” Pine added.

In a statement, the land owners said: “Prior to becoming Ko Olina Resort, this area was private property with restricted public access and use. Ko Olina Resort has diligently provided public access where none prior existed.”

Until there is a change in the status of the land here, the Ko Olina company said it “will continue to maintain this public land in a way that complements the resort amenities here in Ko Olina.”

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