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Hawaii's Turtle Bay Resort Eyes Expansion in 2014

Environmental Impact Report Complete for the Development
Plan Adding Two Hotels to the Area

By Andrew Gomes, The Honolulu Star-AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 27, 2012--The owner of Turtle Bay Resort hopes to start building new hotel rooms and residences in 2014, after filing a draft supplemental environmental impact statement with the city last week.

The environmental report took about a year to produce mainly because of an archaeological inventory survey for the 880-acre property on Oahu's North Shore. The report also includes a traffic analysis, and assessments of impacts on monk seals and turtles.

Details of the development plan, which would add two hotels with 625 units and 750 residences to the largely undeveloped coastal site, haven't changed and remain controversial among many North Shore residents despite city approvals to build many more units than what is being proposed.

Drew Stotesbury, an executive with Canadian-based resort development firm Replay Resorts Inc., said the environmental report produced no surprises.

"We're really happy to have the work done," he said. Replay Resorts has been retained by Turtle Bay's owner to help develop land on both sides of the existing 443-room oceanfront hotel.

Traffic has been one of the community's biggest concerns, and the report projects that full buildout of the Turtle Bay expansion plan in 2025 would cause the greatest impact on Saturdays around noon with a 28 percent increase just outside Haleiwa.

In Kahaluu, where the windward connection leading to Turtle Bay becomes one lane in each direction, Saturday traffic would increase by 17 percent, the report said.

The archaeological inventory survey involved digging 345 trenches, typically one or two per acre in development areas, to check for the presence of artifacts including Native Hawaiian burials, or iwi. Two burials were found and reported to the State Historic Preservation Division.

Treatment of the burials, which could involve leaving them or relocating them, will be determined by the Oahu Island Burial Council in consultation with the Kahuku Burial Committee, other recognized lineal or cultural descendants, and the landowner.

One toe bone also was discovered on the ground in an area where at least eight burials were previously discovered and recovered, the report said.

The impact on turtles would mostly affect breeding. The report said development along presently undisturbed coastlines including Kuilima Bay and Kawela Bay could dissuade turtles from laying eggs on the beaches due to increased lighting and beach activity.

Monk seals could benefit from development, according to the report, because resort management will cordon off safe zones for seals that haul out on the beach to prevent people from intentionally or unintentionally harassing the animals.

The public may comment on the report until Jan. 18, which represents a voluntary extension of 11 days beyond a statutory 45-day time frame.

Judging from the written comments to last year's notice about preparing a supplemental EIS, the response may largely be negative.

Everette Magnuson, a condo owner at Turtle Bay, responded to last year's notice by saying existing roads can't handle an increase in traffic and that building two more hotels will destroy the natural beauty of the area.

Scott Langford, a 16-year North Shore resident, also expressed objections. "It will be a sad day for Hawaii if the North Shore changes any more than it already has," he wrote. "Please DO NOT allow any more construction at Turtle Bay, enough is enough already."

Stotesbury said the development plan tries to balance financial interests of the property's owner with the environment and the community. He said it's a compromise on maximum development approved by the city more than 25 years ago.

The Replay plan is about 60 percent less than one with 3,500 units and five hotels pushed by former property owner Oaktree Capital Management LLC in 2005, and 40 percent less than a draft plan with 2,345 units Replay floated in March 2011.

Oaktree was sued along with the city in 2006 by environmental groups Keep the North Shore Country and the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter on grounds that a 1985 environmental impact statement for the resort buildout was outdated.

In 2010 the Hawaii Supreme Court agreed with the environmental groups, reversing rulings in two lower courts.

A consortium of lenders doing business as Turtle Bay Resort LLC repossessed the property from Oaktree two months before the high court's ruling, and produced the present development plan and supplemental EIS.

The new report proposes starting development in 2014 with a 375-unit time share and 225 residences along Turtle Bay and Kawela Bay.

Total buildout of the estimated $770 million project is projected to take 10 years. The second hotel would be 250 units and sold as condominium-hotel units. The actual number of hotel/ time-share units could be as many as 1,000 when counting time-share units that can be divided into smaller units for separate use.

Other elements of the plan include five parks -- four along the shoreline -- spread over 73 acres, 12 new public shoreline access ways, an additional resort entrance, a relocated equestrian center, a farmers market and reduction of one of Turtle Bay's two 18-hole golf courses to nine holes.

Of the residences, 160 would be affordable housing and represent almost triple what is required.

The developer mentions an alternative plan would preserve areas around Kawela Point and Kahuku Point if an organization compensates the resort owner for the change. But so far, no interested conservation partner has stepped forward, and a price for preserving the land hasn't been determined, according to the report.

Following the public comment period, the resort owner will respond to comments and include them in a final supplemental EIS to the city. If the city determines that the final document is complete, development likely could proceed because the landowner already has zoning and other discretionary approvals.

The developer did note that it needs to adjust some zoning boundaries within the property; that should be possible without City Council action.


(c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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