Land Use Commission defers decision on re-zoning Turtle Bay land

Jade Eckardt

NORTH SHORE—Defend Oahu Coalition (DOC) appeared before the State Land Use Commission (LUC) today for the sixth time regarding a motion the coalition made requesting the LUC to reclassify 236 of the 880 acres of urban-zoned land that developers hope to build the Turtle Bay Resort expansion on. After the LUC attempted to deny the motion, they then attempted to approve it, and with no votes for either option, concluded the hearing without a ruling on the motion.

The LUC had changed the zoning of the property from agriculture to urban back in 1986 when they gave the hopeful developers the go-ahead for the expansion of the North Shore’s only luxury hotel. Since very little has been done in almost 25 years by Kuilima Resort Company (KRC), which plans to build five new hotels and 1,000 condominium units, residents and community activists feel the developer’s window to build has ran it course. According to one source, when the decision was made in 1986, the LUC didn’t set a time limit but if the same thing had been done today, there would be a time frame for the developers to complete the project.

The coalition made their initial motion, which specifically requests the issuance of a show of cause order to the developers, back in April 2008 and were hopeful today that the LUC would render a ruling that satisfied North Shore residents who don’t want to see the expansion. DOC also hoped a ruling would send the message to KRC, now headed by Maui born developer Stanford Carr, that people from all over the island do not want to see the resort expanded.

During the hearing, which was attended by approximately 50 DOC supporters, one community activist said: “It’s looking good and we’re feeling optimistic. We have had some great community testimonies and the room was filled with green shirts [DOC’s signature shirt].”

While the LUC has been considering the motion, Stanford Carr has been pushing forward with the outdated plan and is now awaiting final subdivision approval.

DOC and their supporters last went before the LUC in February 2009, and after today, hope to be successful at the next hearing.

“All we’re asking is to have developers prove why they should keep the land zoned urban when after 25 years they have done nothing with it,” said Tim Vandeveer, co-chair of Defend Oahu Coalition. 

Supporters of the motion feel that if the land were reverted back to agriculture it would not ruin the project altogether, but would instead force the developer to change the size and scope of the expansion plan, sending a message to speculators that untimely and unsustainable development plans can indeed expire.

“Things were looking good and a decision could have been made today. Instead the LUC has decided to kick the can down the road,” said one frustrated North Shore resident.

The resort, formally owned exclusively by Oaktree Capital Management, has been lingering in foreclosure since 2007 after it defaulted on its $400 million debt to Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo.