A stormy and emotional three-hour meeting of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board came to a dramatic close Monday night when the board voted down a proposal to ask Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to halt redevelopment at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, better known as Sherwood Forest.
A resolution offered by board member Kukana Kama-Toth asking Caldwell to “stop the further destruction of Sherwood Forest” failed on a 6-4 vote, as nine votes were needed to get agreement to put it on the board agenda. Joining Kama-Toth in opposition to the redevelopment were board members Andrew Jamila, Catherine Sato, Ted Ralston, Susan Frank-Kama and Kimeona Kane, according to city employee Russell Ho, who tabulated the votes.
Those who opposed putting the issue on the agenda, which squelched the resolution, were Neighborhood Board Chairman Wilson Kekoa Ho and members Liana Agbayani, Shannon Alivado and Johnene “Noe” Galeai, Ho said.
Clarification: An earlier version of the story reported that the measure failed on a 6-4 vote but did not explain that a two-thirds vote was needed for passage and did not include the full list of those who voted on both sides of the issue.
An effort to call for a second vote on the issue subsequently failed, with Ho saying that it was necessary to vacate the building. Uniformed police ushered participants out the door and off the premises.
Many area residents were startled in mid-April when bulldozers arrived at the heavily forested beach park to begin tearing out vegetation to make way for the first phase of a plan to eventually turn much of the park’s land area into a regional sports complex with four ballfields and up to 470 parking stalls. Opposition grew quickly and about 13,000 people have signed an online petition to stop the project.
Phase I is far more modest in scope, encompassing just one ball field and 11 parking stalls, at a cost of about $1.4 million, but to opponents, it is the opening wedge into what they view as a devastating deforestation of the site.
Hundreds of Waimanalo residents jammed into the National Guard training cafeteria at Bellows Air Force Station where the project was discussed Monday night.
A solid core of support for the project quickly became apparent early in the evening, when a series of speakers who had been involved in the planning, which took place over several decades, said they wanted the ball fields.
“We all came together, not only the neighborhood board,” said Mabel Spencer. “The focus then was about the children, what was important for the children.”
Neighborhood board chairman Wilson Kekoa Ho said that the planning process for the project had been open, with the community invited to participate.
“It wasn’t like it was my committee,” Ho said. “The board chairman has no power to do anything without a majority vote.”
Most of those who spoke, however, said they opposed the project and hadn’t heard that it was about to begin. Many also questioned why the city was building new ball fields when it has failed to maintain existing ones.
Caldwell has said it would cost the city $300,000 to cancel the contract with the construction company doing the work.
“I was waiting to see what the neighborhood board would have done but at this point, let’s be clear, the decision is Mayor Caldwell’s,” said City Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson, a long-time proponent of the project who attended the meeting and listened intently in the front row.
Anderson had asked the mayor to put the project on hold during the breeding season of the Hawaiian hoary bat, which is believed to nest on the site.
The resolution failed despite the majority vote because county law governing neighborhood boards requires a two-thirds vote for items to be put on the agenda, said Ho, Waimanalo neighborhood assistant for the Neighborhood Commission. He said the sunshine law also requires public notice to be given six days before a meeting is held, he said.
He said the measure failed because Kama-Toth “needed nine votes and didnʻt get nine votes.”
One opponent of the project, Kevin O’Mahoney, said after the vote that he was not surprised that so many members of the board still supported it.
“They didn’t do their job,” he said. “People spoke but they ignored us and did whatever they wanted to do.”
His views were echoed by Ahonui Ohelo, who also spoke against the project.
“I think they should listen to the people,” Ohelo said.
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A Kailua girl, Kirstin Downey is a special correspondent for Civil Beat. A longtime reporter for The Washington Post, she is the author of "The Woman Behind the New Deal," "Isabella the Warrior Queen" and an upcoming biography of King Kaumualii of Kauai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.