Hawaii Tourism Authority becomes player in possible Bill 11 compromise

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Sep 13 2012 11:08:57 PM HST
Updated On: Sep 14 2012 09:56:09 AM HST

The Hawaii Tourism Authority searches for a compromise while commercial business in Kailua slows down after Bill 11.

KAILUA, Hawaii -

After the City Council voted to override Mayor Peter Carlisle's veto of Bill 11 on Aug. 15, all commercial activity at Kailua and Kalama beach parks came to a grinding halt.

However, large stagecoach tour buses continue to roam the residential neighborhood, providing a boost to local businesses, but frustrating longtime locals.

"People have had to deal with safety problems with tour buses, with diesel fumes and with huge hoards hordes of people crossing streets at the same time," said Chuck Prentiss, chair of the Kailua Neighborhood Board.

Thursday morning morning, a meeting was held at HTA headquarters at the Hawaii Convention Center to discuss how large tour buses could continue to bring visitors to the popular beach parks without disturbing Kailua residents. The gathering was attended by 40 to 50 people, including several representatives from tour bus companies.

"I think we're trying to find a way to find some balance in this so that everyone can feel comfortable and feel good about what's going on out there," said McCartney. "We're looking for alternatives that minimize the impact on the community, and also provide the best guest experience possible."

Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who represents Kailua and sponsored Bill 11, told KITV4 one of the ideas being floated is to find a private, commercially zoned lot where stagecoach tour buses could park, and then ferry tourists to Kailua and Kalama beach parks in less cumbersome vehicles. Anderson was among those who attended the HTA meeting.

"I think it's a reasonable solution if we're looking at vehicles that would take tourists in decent numbers, 15 to 25 at a time, to get to where they're going," said the councilman. "I have been talking to people in my community to let them know that we do need to be mindful of our neighborhood businesses, while at the same time protecting the rights and the comfort of our Kailua residents."

Still, Prentiss doesn't believe residents who fought over a year to pass Bill 11 would be agreeable to any compromise that allows large tour buses to continue roving through Kailua streets.

"They could offload the tourists at the Pali Lookout if they want to and walk down, and it'll still be illegal," he said. "If it's part of an organized tour, then it's not legal."

But Anderson rejects any notion that Bill 11 was meant to control commercial activity outside of the two beach parks. He said all of the testimony and debate leading up to passage of the measure focused on regulating for-profit activities inside the popular areas, which had become unmanageable because of kayak rentals and other ventures.

"Anyone who tells you that the intent of the bill was to prevent commercial activity around the beach park and all over Kailua are severely misguided," said Anderson.

Kaneohe Ranch, which manages real estate owned by the family trusts of Harold K.L. Castle and Alice H. Castle, already allows stagecoach buses to park at an empty lot on Hekili Street, but visitors are forced to walk and many never make it to the beach.

Parks and Recreation Director Gary Cabato said any compromise that allows tourists to walk into the two beach parks on their own would not be a violation of Bill 11, as long as smaller vehicles that ferry visitors to the areas remain outside park boundaries.

Meanwhile, Bob Twogood, owner of Twogood Kayaks Hawaii in Kailua, said his business has dropped significantly after the commercial ban at the two beach parks began last month. Before the bill took effect, Twogood's 14 workers used to deliver kayaks to the water's edge, but no longer.

"I've laid-off over half my staff to this point, and we'll see how it goes over the next couple of months whether I have to lay off even more," he said.

Twogood said any compromise that takes the interests of businesses, tour bus operators and residents into account, is a good start.

"I think it's a really good move in the right direction," he said.

But McCartney said any solution could be weeks, or even months away.

"I think we have our work cut out for us, we still have a lot of work to do," he said.

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