Real estate developers warned the City Council
yesterday that a bill calling for a moratorium
on development along a proposed rail transit
line could potentially shut down projects
already in the works.
"The wording in the bill puts all development
to a stop. It just stops everything. There's no
exemption, there's no exclusions, there's
nothing," said Dean Uchida, executive director
of the Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii,
representing developers and large landowners.
"So it doesn't matter if it's a government
project, a private project, a nonprofit,
anything. And that's a big broad category to
just basically say there's no development in
Bill 86 would establish a Fixed Guideway
Transit Alignment Interim Development Control
Area within a quarter-mile of the rail line and
a half-mile of a transit station.
The designation would prohibit issuance of
building, grading and other development permits
for projects on property in the area for 12
months after passage of the bill or when a
transit-related zoning ordinance is enacted,
whichever comes first. Possible penalties for
disregarding the law would include fines and
The City Council's Transportation and
Planning Committee is scheduled to hold the
final committee meeting today on a measure that
names a mass transit system for Honolulu and a
Rail transit is the choice so far, and the
committee could pick a route today from five
options, including a 28-mile line between west
Kapolei and the University of Hawaii at Manoa,
estimated at $4.6 billion, or a 20-mile route
from east Kapolei to Ala Moana Center estimated
to cost $3.6 billion. A final vote on the
transit selection is expected Dec. 22.
The moratorium bill would move forward only
if rail is chosen.
Developers testified that the bill could
affect affordable housing projects and shopping
centers in Kapolei, the new Judiciary complex in
Kapolei and the University of Hawaii West Oahu
"We agree with the principle of Bill 86, but
are unclear on how this proposed measure might
adversely affect the phase one construction of
the new UH West Oahu campus," Chancellor Gene
Awakuni said in written testimony.
Steven Kothenbeutel, project manager with
Avalon Development, said that the developer was
about to announce plans for an estimated
300,000-square-foot office and retail center in
the heart of Kapolei, near Kapolei Regional
Park, at the corner of Kamaaha and Manawai
"The concept is that in the evening time,
after one's done with work, you can still stay
in the center, you can go to dinner -- kind of
like a Restaurant Row concept," Kothenbeutel
said after testifying.
He said the developer recently had acquired
the property from Campbell Estate, but
attracting tenants to the project could be
difficult if the moratorium were put in place.
"It's going to have a negative impact,
definitely. Right now we are isolating certain
types of tenants to come into play,"
Kothenbeutel said. "It certainly throws a wrench
into the entire process."
David Rae, vice president of public affairs
with the James Campbell Co., said plans for a
shopping center and possibly housing development
in west Kapolei would also be halted.
"We understand and appreciate the Council's
desire to assure development adjacent to transit
stations comply with standards of
transit-oriented development," Rae said.
"However, Bill 86 as currently written would
have the effect of halting all progress in
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration hasn't
taken a position on the bill, but also expressed
concern about it.
"The provisions of Bill 86 have potentially
significant and widespread impact on large areas
of land," said Henry Eng, director of the city
Department of Planning and Permitting.
Uchida, the developers' representative, said
the bill could open up the city to lawsuits
filed by impacted developers. "My own personal
feeling, I think it will be a large financial
exposure to the city," he said.
"Millions? Billions?" asked Councilwoman
"Keep going," Uchida replied.
The effect would also be felt around Kakaako
and Ala Moana, according to officials with
General Growth Properties, owners of Ala Moana
Center and the Ward Entertainment Center, who
also have redevelopment and expansion plans.
"All of our properties are affected by this
bill," said Jan Yokota, the company's vice
president of Hawaii development.
Councilman Todd Apo, who represents West
Oahu, said he's nervous about any type of
moratorium on development.
"This could affect not only the big
developments we've heard about, but the
individual landowner who's trying to build a
house and it happens to be within a quarter mile
or half mile of the station," Apo said.
Council members who signed on to the bill
said the intent wasn't to stop projects
mentioned yesterday but to assure that anything
built around train stations would be compatible
with a lifestyle oriented toward transit use.
"Should we decide to select rail as our mode
of transportation, I myself wouldn't want to see
something akin to an Oklahoma land rush, where
speculators would come in and try to take
advantage of the situation," said Councilman
Nestor Garcia, whose district includes Makakilo
The Council sent the bill to the Zoning
Committee for further hearings.