- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - A bill before the state Senate would allow residential development on central Honolulu land now owned by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, reversing a ban imposed eight years ago.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is pursuing the legislation to increase the value of the 25 acres it owns in Kakaako, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1fqJtNq) reported Thursday.

The state prohibited residential development in the area known as Kakaako Makai after public protests against a plan by local developer Alexander &Baldwin; Inc. to build three condo towers on what is now one of the agency’s parcels.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs came to own land between Kewalo Basin and Honolulu Harbor two years ago in a historic settlement with the state over deferred revenue generated by former Hawaiian monarchy lands.

Kawika Burgess, chief operating officer of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said Wednesday that a recently completed analysis showed it would be “very difficult” to achieve the $200 million value of the land under existing zoning, but residential development would make it possible.

“We are looking to achieve returns consistent with the $200 million valuation,” Burgess said.

Sen. Clayton Hee, a former trustee of the agency and co-sponsor of the recent bill, said the Office of Hawaiian Affairs should have gotten more in its settlement with the state.

“The highest revenue generation, as evidenced by what’s going on in Kakaako, is condominiums,” said Hee, a Democrat who represents Heeia and Waialua. “It would provide a tremendous revenue-generating income for Hawaiians.”

But the bill is expected to rekindle the fierce debate over whether high-density housing is an appropriate use in the area, which fronts the Point Panic bodysurfing break.

“We’ve said it over and over and over again - commercial development doesn’t belong down there,” said Michael Kliks, a Manoa resident who fought to preserve undeveloped sites from housing and other commercial development eight years ago. “It doesn’t make a difference who owns the land. It’s the same thing.”

The bill has been referred to a joint Senate committee of Hawaiian Affairs/Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, followed by the Judiciary and Labor Committee. An initial hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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