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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Promise of jobs doesn't sway everyone

 •  Turtle Bay planning five hotels, 3,500 rooms

By Will Hoover
Advertiser North Shore Writer

For many, reaction to Turtle Bay Resort's expansion plans comes down to two competing issues: the need for more jobs versus the fear of rampant development.

One North Shore resident said the plans are like "dropping Ka'anapali in the middle of the furthest place from Honolulu on the whole island of O'ahu," referring to a large resort on Maui.

The resident, Schuyler "Lucky" Cole, added, "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that adding 3,000 hotel rooms is going to have a negative impact on the community" particularly the increased traffic along Kamehameha Highway, which has just one lane in each direction.

But after listening to a presentation about the resort's expansion plans on Thursday, the board of directors of the Kahuku Community Association unanimously approved the plan, noting the resort's 1986 unilateral agreement would provide for the "necessary future employment needs for our community."

Association president Donald Hurlbut said the deal's biggest draw two decades ago was its promise of 3,500 jobs to area residents who were out of work after the Kahuku Sugar Mill shut down in 1971, and folks at the Waialua Sugar Mill, who knew they would eventually suffer the same fate.

"I was on the original committee that helped draft the unilateral agreement," said Hurlbut, who is also a member of the Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board. "It's all good."

And it's still good now, he maintained.

Cole disagrees. He was among the residents who formed an association called "Keep the Country Country" that strongly opposed the resort expansion in the mid-1980s.

Cole said 20 years ago the expansion opposition was drowned out by the pro-jobs forces. But he said the mood for many North Shore residents has changed: Jobs aren't the big concern they were then.

He contended that the city and state need to review the agreement to check whether it's still valid.

"And they certainly shouldn't move forward without assessing the impact on the community," he said.

Former City Councilman Leigh-Wai Doo was among those who initiated the unilateral agreement and hammered out most of the conditions, such as a plan that would establish public access to Kawela Bay. He said keeping the country country was actually incorporated into the original design.

For example, Doo said, original "international style" building designs were scrapped in favor of a style known as "Kama'aina style," that was in keeping with the North Shore's rural atmosphere. Those and other concepts remain a part of the agreement that must be followed, he said.

"It may be time to re-review the zoning, because the amenities have not been put in," Doo said.

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.