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Despite opposition, state moves forward with plan to transform Hawaii's largest boat harbor

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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The state Land Board voted Friday to move forward with a plan to ask private developers for their proposals on how to transform Hawaii's largest boat harbor into a world-class marina.

That's despite hefty opposition from community members. 

The Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation is looking to redevelop the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor — an area that many say has become rundown — and generate additional revenue.

They also note that the harbor has been in disrepair for years. 

Four state-owned sites on the property are being considered for development, including the current harbormaster's office and adjacent parking lot, the old fuel dock, the former haul out area, and the triangular parking lot used by surfers and beachgoers.

But the proposal has received significant pushback at several public meetings, including the one on Friday.

Many residents and nearby businesses say they are against using the property for hotels or residential units, and they want restrictions on building heights.

Some boaters say they're also worried a developer with no experience managing harbors may get the job. 

"Rather than making it like it used to be, this paradise that it used to be, they're trying to make it into another timeshare. They're trying to take away parking," said resident Kathryn Henski.

Ed Underwood, head of DOBAR, responded that "that's not our intention at all."

"Whoever comes in to do this project is going to have to comply with all the current zoning in Waikiki's special design district."

After developer Honeybee USA's previous plans for a mixed-used project at the harbor failed in 2016, when financial setbacks led to its lease being terminated, others are questioning whether a private-public partnership is the right decision.

This story will be updated.

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