Honolulu City Council sends message to state lawmakers

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Apr 25 2013 11:35:00 PM HST

Lawmakers are close to a deal to turn underused public school lands into money making properties. But Honolulu councilmembers say hold on when it comes to developing projects on city-owned land.

HONOLULU -

Lawmakers are close to a deal to turn underused public school lands into money making properties, but Honolulu council members say "hold on" when it comes to developing projects on city-owned land.

"If the state wants to redevelop public school land owned by the city, they first need to approach the city to see if we are willing to do that," said councilman Ikaika Anderson.

Nearly 50 years ago, counties transferred jurisdiction of public education to the state -- but not the land.

There are nearly 100 campuses completely or partially-owned by the county of Honolulu. There is concern that could change this legislative session. So what would happen if state lawmakers changed that status?

"I would urge the city to take the state to court. I hope it doesn't come to that, but to protect the taxpayers who own the property the city should go to court," said Anderson.

Before legislators vote on the current bill calling for development at some schools, council members passed a resolution to remind them of the city's history with the land.

"This is telling the state they don't have the right to decide anything without consulting with the landowner. This isn't so much as saying before they decide this is saying they don't have the right to decide."

Sen. Jill Tokuda said the latest version of the bill recognizes the county's ownership of some school land, "It calls upon the department and Board of Education to engage with counties should any of the sites be on county land."

Tokuda added that communities will also be involved in the decision-making process.  She also hopes the council will join the project, even if city-owned lands are not selected for development.

"In the lease process and development process the department and the board will have to go before the city council to be able to do any of these actions. So the city is going to need to be a partner if the project is going to be successful," said Tokuda.

Lawmakers also face the challenge of agreeing on the number of school properties that could be developed.  Representatives want five, Senators want two. Some sort of compromise is expected on Friday.

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