Kailua Neighborhood Board sparks debate over tourism

Kailua Neighborhood Board sparks debate over tourism
Published: Sep. 10, 2013 at 9:49 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:06 AM HST
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KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - You don't have to look far to find tourists in Kailua. They're shopping, dining and often spending money.

"The reality is Kailua has been discovered," said Rick McMahon, who has owned Segway of Kailua the past four years.

However the Kailua Neighborhood Board isn't happy about Kailua's popularity. It passed a resolution urging the Hawaii Tourism Authority to stop promoting Kailua as a tourist destination.

"Be it resolved that the Kailua Neighborhood Board asks the Hawaii Tourism Authority to respect the zoning and quality of life of our residential neighborhoods and immediately stop promoting Kailua as a tourist destination and alternative to Waikiki," the resolution said.

"We feel that we need to have areas on the island where local people can live and not be inundated like animals in the zoo where people come look at us. This is a residential community. We want to raise our children and the tourist areas are designated elsewhere on the island," said Chuck Prentiss, Kailua Neighborhood Board Chair.

Prentiss says tourists attract more thieves which brings crime, as well as traffic and increased housing prices. He also says the Hawaii Tourism Authority should not encourage Kailua vacation rentals when bed and breakfasts established after 1989 are not allowed.

"We feel very strongly that the position of the board is what the community wants," said Prentiss.

"I don't think they represent the majority of the resident population of Kailua," said McMahon, who says he has lived in Kailua nearly 50 years. "The quality of life is quite nice. We've got excellent restaurants, we've got great places to shop, we have a community that can live and work in this town unlike before."

Cinnamon's Restaurant has been serving Kailua 28 years. The owner has mixed feelings on tourism even though visitors are about a third of his customers.

"Without the tourism coming in it would be a struggle," said Puna Nam, Cinnamon's Restaurant Owner. "As far as the residential side, I've been a resident here for 44 years and seen the changes, but you have to face reality. It's coming. It's something we have to cope with."

Then there's the perspective of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce president which represents 200 businesses regarding the Neighborhood Board's resolution.

"I think that they are forgetting that the business community is essential to the overall health of Kailua," said Linda Goldstein, Kailua Chamber of Commerce President. "You can't put a gate at the entrance and say nope, nobody is coming in. So I think the best thing is instead of trying to stop things or reverse a trend, is to see how we can work together or make it work for everybody."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority does say it will work with its marketing partners, tourism stakeholders and community members to find a way to accommodate all parties involved.

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