|By Suzanne Roig, The Honolulu
AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 17, 2009 - --The Hawaii Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of whether Kuilima Development should be required to do an updated environmental study for its planned expansion of Turtle Bay Resort.
The court announced Thursday that it will hear oral arguments in the case Nov. 19. The Supreme Court will review a 2-1 decision by the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals that denied a request for an updated review of the project's impact on the environment.
The question is whether the project's 24-year-old environmental impact statement is still valid.
In 1986, a 236-acre parcel was rezoned from agricultural to urban use and a plan was proposed to build five new hotels with 3,500 rooms and condominium units and four public parks on a total of 880 acres at Turtle Bay.
Meanwhile, Gov. Linda Lingle announced plans to acquire undeveloped portions of the property as a way to limit development and maintain open space.
The Sierra Club and the Keep the North Shore Country group have been working for more than four years to require the developer to submit a supplemental environmental study. They claim that much has changed along the North Shore since the original study was done.
Traffic is worse, endangered species nest on the beach and the community's needs have changed, the groups said.
"The volume of traffic has grown through the roof," said Gil Riviere, president of Keep the North Shore Country. "We want responsible planning for the North Shore."
Stanford Carr, interim management officer for a consortium of banks that took control of the property in 2007 in a foreclosure proceeding, said he looks forward to the hearing.
"We look forward to our day before the Supreme Court," Carr said. "The whole nexus of the lawsuit has bigger ramifications for our state and economy. We would like to put this behind us so we can satisfy our conditions for redevelopment.
"It's a dark cloud over our head. "
If the court requires the developer to provide a supplemental environmental study, the ruling could affect other communities where approvals were granted decades ago and the building still continues, Carr said.
He cited work at Ko Olina and Kaanapali Resort on Maui as examples of projects that have taken decades to build out. Financial backers count on development agreements with the county for entitlements that form a kind of collateral.
Not every environmental impact statement needs to be revised, just ones in which conditions have changed, said Robert Harris, Sierra Club Hawaii director.
"The Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled that unless there was a change in the project, a design change, then there was no need to change the environmental study," Harris said. "We're arguing that a supplemental (EIS) needs to be done when there are changes to the community or the environment, not just a design change."
Reach Suzanne Roig at email@example.com.
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