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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

Keep dialogue open on Turtle Bay plan

The developers of the expanded Turtle Bay resort envisioned as a mammoth five-hotel complex need the community's support, whether or not such support is required by law.

To a large extent, the community seems to need the developers as well. Last week the Kahuku Community Association board of directors voted to back the project, citing first the potential employment opportunities; and they liked the promise by Kuilima Resort Co. to deliver amenities (beach access, childcare centers) promised in the landmark agreement enacted by the City Council 20 years ago.

Others in the North Shore district beg to differ, noting that the council in 1986 never should have endorsed an accord without a sunset clause. Conditions have changed, and O'ahu never should be bound by rules made a generation ago, they say.

They're right and the mistake of approving a development in such an open-ended agreement must never be repeated. More recently, special management area permits have been issued with set deadlines for development.

But city lawyers see no way to amend the agreement in any way that hinders the project, without leaving the city open to a lawsuit. That's a risk the council should not take.

Instead, the council should do all in its power to enforce the agreement's conditions. In particular, members must see that the welcome improvements in public parks and access to the Kawela Bay shoreline are delivered as the project progresses. A resolution seeking compliance with the conditions, wisely, already has been introduced.

The environmental studies prepared more than two decades ago surely need updating, and city officials have ample opportunity to do so as each permit application comes in. In particular, the developer must demonstrate how it plans to manage the additional traffic that will result.

Finally, the company must continue the dialogue it has started with residents. Both the developer and the community undoubtedly have a lot they can learn from each other to make the project a success.

The developers may have unconditional agreement with the community in hand. But the smart thing is to talk with the community about today's needs and problems, not just those that were in place decades ago.