Developers may face 15-year time limit due to Land Use Ordinance amendment

Councilmember tells developers no more decades-old Environmental Impact Statements

Jade Eckardt

HALEIWA—In 2010, Kuilima Resort Company attempted to move forward with a plan to expand its Turtle Bay Resort from its current size of around 500 hotel and condo units to 4,000 units. The problem, according to the developer’s opposition, was that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) used for the project was 25 years old. Anti-development groups argued that environmental and community impacts had changed in the decades past. And last April, the courts agreed.

In order to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future, Honolulu City Councilmember Reed Matsuura is taking action to curb the amount of time that projects can sit on the shelf before being reevaluated. Matsuura was appointed as interim councilmember after Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz’s resignation.

In November, Matsuura introduced Resolution 10-327, which proposes an amendment to chapter 21 of the Land Use Ordinance (LUO). The amendment creates a 15-year time limit for a developer to begin construction in order to obtain a roadway and utility subdivision permit.

Matsuura told The Hawaii Independent on Thursday that the proposal is now under review at the Planning Commission.

According to the LUO, the purpose of the proposal is to “regulate land use in a manner that will encourage orderly development in accordance with adopted land use policies, including the Oahu general plan and development plans, and to promote and protect the public health, safety and welfare.”

To view Chapter 21 of the Land Use Ordinance, click here

Matsuura’s effort follows the Hawaii State Supreme Court’s April 2010 decision, which required Kuilima Resort Company to provide a new supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before moving forward with its 25-year-old development plans for Turtle Bay Resort. The court ruled in favor of Keep the North Shore Country and the Sierra Club Hawaii, who had filed a brief in September requesting another supplemental (EIS).

Community members were concerned with the estimated increase of 2,050 additional cars per hour on Kamehameha Highway that was determined from a 2005 traffic study done for Kuilima Resort Company, as well as the nesting of endangered species like the Hawaiian Monk Seal around the proposed construction area—neither of which are included in the original EIS done in 1985.

In a letter to the public public in the North Shore News in December, Matsuura explained that the 15-year time limit for construction projects would ensure that conditions set forth in the Unilateral Agreement as part of the zone change approval process are relevant and not outdated. The legislation would allow the developer to apply for a one-time five-year extension, but only if the developer can prove that construction would definitely begin within the five years.

Matsuura explained on Thursday that the usual process for a proposed change of this sort is to first be adopted by the City Council, then go under review by the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) which also makes any recommendations to the Planning Commission. Then, the Commission has 45 days to review the proposed legislation and make its recommendation to the City Council. Lastly, the Council will receive the legislation in the form of a bill for introduction, and it then must go through three readings in order to be adopted.

In his letter, Matsuura expressed that this legislation “will set clear guidelines for the DPP to follow as it will be set by ordinance, and will help save taxpayer dollars because it would protect the City from costly lawsuits because a permit expiration date for construction would be established for the developer.”

To read Resolution 10-327, click here