North Shore Community Land Trust reaches out to residents, asks what’s worth preserving

Jade Eckardt

HALEIWA—It is the mission of the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) to protect, steward, and enhance the natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and rural character from Kahuku Point to Kaena.  The organization will be holding a special meeting called a “land protection talk story” to find out first-hand what North Shore residents would like to preserve.

At the Haleiwa Farmers Market this Sunday, February 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. community members are invited to drop by the NSCLT’s booth to view their informational displays and talk to volunteers about what is important to them about the North Shore.

Doug Cole, executive director of NSCLT, explained that the organization works with land owners who are willing to conserve property.

NSCLT wants to find out what residents want the North Shore to look like in 20 years. Some key questions they hope to have residents answer are:

-What places are important to you?
-Why are they important?
-What values do they represent?
-How do we keep the North Shore a great place to live, work, and play?

The NSCLT has successfully completed several land protection projects along the North Shore, and is currently working with the Trust for Public Land and the owners of the Turtle Bay Resort to place a conservation easement on approximately 469 acres of agricultural land on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway, directly across from the resort.

Under the proposed easement, the property would remain as agriculture land permanently under a legally binding agreement between the landowner and the conservation organization, and could never be rezoned, subdivided, or developed.

NSCLT and the Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit land conservation organization, are working with the landowners to secure funding for the easement.

Cole said: “We try to educate owners on conservation, and the owners of this property expressed interest in the easement. The goal is not to own the 469 acres, just the preservation rights. We want to see it farmed in perpetuity.”

Lea Hong, Hawaii Director of the Trust for Public Land, said the 469 acre parcel is owned by Turtle Bay Mauka Lands, LLC, a company managed by Turtle Bay Resort Holdings. The property currently has access to irrigation and roads and is being farmed on by approximately 15 to 20 small farmers. The farmers sell some of their produce in fruit stands bordering the property and Kamehameha Highway.

“The landowners are voluntarily giving up the development rights,” Hong said in December.

Adam Borrello, chairperson at NSCLT, called the Turtle Bay mauka ag lands “an important part of the North Shore community’s long-standing efforts to support sustainable agriculture and maintain the North Shore’s rural and agricultural sense of place.”

Cole said the trust has applied for funding for the project from three different agencies.

The State Legacy Land Conservation Program (LLCP), which provides grants to local organizations and agencies seeking to purchase and protect lands that offer valuable resources, held a hearing regarding the applications they received for funding this year. According to Cole, the LLCP has received five applications this year for conservation easement funding, two from Hawaii Island, one from Maui, and two from Oahu. Hong said the LLCP ranked the Turtle Bay property project fourth out of the five applications, and recommended the project for funding.

Hong said the Turtle Bay project was also recommended for funding by the City’s Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission. The commission advises the City Council on the use and expenditure of the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund, which disperses real property tax revenues set aside for conservation purposes.

“On a federal level, we applied for funding from the Farm and Ranch Land Protections Program,” Hong said.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program works with existing programs and partners with state, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. The program provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement, but at the time of publication the NSCLT had not heard if the project has been approved.

“Things look promising, although there is no guarantee for funding,” Cole said. Cole explained that purchasing easement and development rights are a lower price than purchasing a fee simple parcel of land.

Hong and Cole both said if funding is approved, it could take one to two years to complete the process. When the process is completed, the NSCLT will hold title to the easement, and Turtle Bay Resort will still hold title to the property.

In June 2007, the Trust for Public Land purchased the 1,129 acre parcel of North Shore land known as Pupukea-Paumalu, from the Obayashi Corporation with the intent of preventing the development of private estates, subdivisions, and the sewage plant originally intended for the property. The NSCLT assisted the trust in fundraising for the purchase price and in obtaining community input for planning the future of the property.

For more information on the North Shore Community Land Trust visit, contact Doug Cole at (808)497-0036, or email [email protected].