Abercrombie commits to being active in the future of Turtle Bay

Jade Eckardt

HALEIWA—A sea of people wearing green “Keep the country country” shirts flooded last night’s Koolauloa North Shore Alliance’s (KNSA) Talk Story 3, regarding the future of Turtle Bay Resort, where a proposal to increase its current size of 500 hotel and condo units to 4,000 units—five new hotels and 1,000 luxury condominiums have been planned. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was on the discussion panel, asked those in opposition to the plan as well as the developers to work toward a cooperative solution.

Replay Resorts, which was recently hired by the owners of Turtle Bay Resort to oversee its ongoing management operations and real estate development program, revealed a revised master plan for the resort in March that proposed a number reduced to approximately four new hotels and 750 condo units—a number the community was still not happy with.

Community opposition toward the planned Turtle Bay Resort expansion has been strong since the resort’s previous owner, Oaktree Capital Management, announced plans to revive the decades-old plan in 2005. This was before the company defaulted on its $400 million debt to Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo, causing the resort to linger in foreclosure since 2007. Community members have been working to prevent the development from being built, making various attempts to put a stop to the expansion.

On April 8, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of Keep the North Shore Country and the Sierra Club Hawaii, who filed suit to compel the City Department of Planning and Permitting to require a supplemental EIS before construction begins. The ruling means that the developer must complete a new EIS before they can proceed with their plans of expanding the current resort.

The supplemental EIS was a hot topic last night. Lee Sichter of Lee Sichter LLC, whose very first project was the original Turtle Bay EIS 25 years ago, was on the panel to discuss the document.

The Governor, who sat on a panel of five ensured the crowed of approximately 200 that the Koolauloa development was a top priority: “I intend to be active in this. The City and County is not the end.”

The other panelists included Tim Vandeveer of KNSA, Drew Stotesbury of Replay Resorts (representing the owners of Turtle Bay), Sichter, and Cathleen Mattoon of the Turtle Bay Advisory Working Group. The panel listened to the concerns of residents and conservationists, with most comments directed at the governor.

Senators Donovan Dela Cruz and Clayton Hee were both in attendance along with State Representatives Gil Riviere and Jessica Wooley and City Councilmember Ernie Martin.

Stotesbury told the crowed: “I’m not here to present and sell, but I am here to share the process. Regarding the revised master plan, the Turtle Bay rep said they would be revising it again. He added that the resort company wants to ‘discover the essence of the area and plan for the future’ and acknowledged that people ‘kind of want to know where we are going.’

The Turtle Bay rep said the company values community dialogue and that they don’t want walls between the community and the hotel.

Vandeveer called the meeting the “the first step in a long process” and said that’s its important for residents to be involved.”

“Once you take the country away you can never get it back.”

While explaining the EIS process, Sichter called it “an unbiased discussion of facts.” He said that some EISs downplay the negative findings and promote the positive.

“We’ve all seen documents that cross the line in that way, but the Turtle Bay EIS will not be one of those documents,” Sichter said.

Most speakers from the community said that they did not support the development, while others addressed different issues the North Shore faces. Not a single speaker said they were in support of further development at Turtle Bay.

Abercrombie suggested that conservationists come up with a “game plan” and that if the North Shore comes up with a cooperative solution, they would have a better chance at solving the decades long issue.

One speaker suggested transferable development rights (TDR), defined by Realtor.org as a “smart growth” tool used to manage land development and is the exchange of zoning privileges from areas with low population needs, such as farmland, to areas of high population needs, such as downtown areas. These transfers allow for the preservation of open spaces and historic landmarks, while allowing urban areas to expand and increase in densities.

Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Abercrombie referred to the children of the North Shore, saying that the community and the developers need to think about what today’s children will have in 15 or 20 years. He said he was impressed with what he had seen of Sunset Beach Elementary School earlier in the evening, and also with the children who toured him around the campus.

The night ended at 9:30 with comments from a Sunset Beach Elementary student, who had spent time earlier in the evening with the governor. She said that the North Shore is already so crowded that when she asks her mother to take her to the movies on a weekend, her mother says they have to wait for a time when there is less traffic.

She told the panel, “Once you take the country away you can never get it back.”

Anticipated SEIS schedule, according to KNSA:

July 23, 2011—The applicant has targeted this date for the distribution of its SEIS preparation notice that will formally announce its intent to prepare a SEIS and invite agencies and public to comment on the environmental effects of the proposed action and/or request designation as a consulted party.

August 21, 2011—End of official 30-calendar day review period. Deadline for written comments on the prep notice.

December 23, 2011—Target date for the publication of the draft supplemental EIS.

February 5, 2012—End of official 45-calendar day review period. Deadline for written comments on the draft SEIS.

mid-April 2012—Target date for application to submit final supplemental EIS to City’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for approval.

mid-May 2012—End of official 30-calendar day decision making period. Deadline for DPP to render a decision on the final supplemental EIS.

June 2012—Publication of the DPP’s decision in the OEQC Environmental Notice (either the 8th or 23rd of the month).