Turtle Bay plans need second look
By Rep. Michael Magaoay
The Turtle Bay expansion project has divided the North Shore community into two camps: those who favor the proposed development of five new hotels, based on a city special management area permit granted 20 years ago, and those opposed to the project.
Both sides claim that the quality of life for North Shore residents will be harmed if the opposing side gets its way.
A resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 146) calls for a rigorous re-examination of the Turtle Bay expansion project by the City and County of Honolulu and the Honolulu City Council. Over the past 20 years, conditions along the North Shore and on O'ahu have changed. If we are truly to do what's best for the people of the North Shore, the development should go through a process that meets the standards of today and the needs of tomorrow, not those set in 1986.
What have been the significant changes? For one thing, traffic on the North Shore has increased dramatically over the years, particularly along Kamehameha Highway, because of the tremendous popularity of the surf meets. Both locals and visitors flock annually to the world-renowned coastline, in awe of the high surf.
Over the past 20 years, developments such as Ko Olina and Kapolei have put a significant strain on the infrastructure and resources of West O'ahu. This includes demand for healthcare services, landfill capacity, water and affordable housing. Can a third major development be supported on O'ahu?
The environmental impact statement completed in 1985 failed to address the impact of the project on customary and traditional practices of Native Hawaiians. The EIS did identify known prehistoric settlements in the development area, and the development plan calls for the disinterment of any burial remains found during the project construction. By today's standards, this does not adequately take into account the environmental impact of the development on Native Hawaiian culture.
The state Department of Health's administrative rules require that if the timing of a project has been significantly changed, the environmental impact statement must be supplemented. Because of the size and scope of the developer's plans, the city should follow through on this as well as require the developer, Kuilima Resort Co., to do more.
HCR146 calls for not only the re-examination of the special management area permit, including the supplemental environmental impact statement, but recommends that the city also review the Land Use Commission's action to reclassify this area from agricultural to urban to facilitate the project and the unilateral agreement filed with the state Bureau of Conveyances that required certain conditions.
While unusual, there is legal precedence for the city to take this route.
The state Supreme Court affirmed an issuing agency's right to review, revoke or modify special management area use permits in Morgan v. Planning Department, County of Kaua'i, 104 Ha. 174, 86 P.3d 982 (2004).
Change, especially regarding something as permanent as land development, is always hard on a community. As I talk to the people on the North Shore, both for and against the Turtle Bay expansion, there is mistrust and divisiveness growing to a harmful degree. People expect you to take a side in what has become a bitter battle and that will only result in one side winning and one side losing.
We have a better chance of getting a positive result for both sides if we can focus on areas where there may be common ground — good jobs with decent pay for residents in the community, affordable housing for some employees, cultural sensitivity, beach access and support for local fishing, surfing and family gatherings, and preserving the sense of Hawaiian country.
I don't believe anyone expects the North Shore to stay in a time warp, so if we are to move forward with some sort of development, it should be one in which the people's best interests drive the nature, size and scope of the project. That includes holding government accountable for thoroughly examining the environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts that this community will be forced to live with for generations to come.