Turtle Bay development plans draw concern
Hotel union Local 5 plans a rally today at the resort
Efforts by Turtle Bay Resort's Los Angeles-based owner to initiate long-planned development at the resort have prompted further strife between the hotel and workers in its union, and have left the community confused.
Members of hotel workers union Local 5 are expected to join North Shore community groups to rally in front of the resort today to protest further development of the area, from Kawela Bay to Kahuku Point. The rally, scheduled during a professional golf tournament at the resort, is the latest point of contention between the hotel and workers since contract negotiations broke down in 2003 and the union launched a consumer boycott of the hotel.
"The rally is being held to bring attention to the fact that Turtle Bay has applied for subdivision permits and that the environmental impact statement that supports the development is over 20 years old," said Michelle Andrews, community organizer for Local 5.
The owner of Turtle Bay applied in December for a shoreline certification and a subdivision permit from the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting to develop more than 700 acres of land in accordance with its master plan. The 880-acre resort's three-phase master plan, which included several lodging structures, was conceived in the mid-1980s and was expected to be completed by 1996 -- but never came to fruition due to the resort's struggling financial position.
Oaktree Capital, which acquired Turtle Bay in 1999 and has spent $60 million upgrading the once-dilapidated hotel, is moving forward on the original development master plan that was approved some years ago, said Abid Butt, general manager of Turtle Bay Resort.
While Butt could not release details of the planned development yesterday, he said the resort fully intends "to live up to all the conditions of the master plan."
"Implementing the master plan allows us to build on the success of the resort and continue to play a vital role in stimulating the North Shore economy," Butt said. Further development will add to the resort's 550-employee pool, he said.
Butt called the timing of the union rally suspect and said it's "more about bargaining tactics than new development."
"The union has known about this master plan for years. They're making outrageous claims about 3,500 condo units being built at Kawela Bay --which is completely false -- because they want to stir up opposition in order to call attention to their boycott," he said.
Members of Unite Here Local 5 say the city must review Turtle Bay's application carefully before taking action because the approvals are decades old.
"Many significant changes and events have occurred in the past two decades," said Eric Gill, financial secretary-treasurer for Local 5, in a Jan. 5 letter to the city planning and permitting department.
North Shore traffic, water, hotel and housing needs, endangered species needs and cultural practices need to be addressed before action is taken on the resort's application, Gill said in the letter.
Henry Eng, the city's director of planning and permitting, said yesterday that action on Turtle Bay's application has been deferred 90 days so the resort can gather additional information that the department needs to make a decision on the application.
Some members of the community say there are signs Turtle Bay may be moving forward quickly on the development. The union said the resort has begun clearing land near its stable, but has been slow to answer questions.
Many in the community are frustrated by a lack of information, said Creighton Mattoon, a member of the Koolauloa Neighborhood Board. He said he has fielded lots of calls from concerned citizens who live in his rural district.
"The Koolauloa area is designated a rural area and anything that smacks of urbanization tends to perk up one's ears," Mattoon said. "Everything is unofficial, but there is a good degree of interest as to what may be going on."
The Koolauloa Neighborhood Board has requested more information from Turtle Bay and the Planning and Permitting Department, but so far, it has not received any answers, Mattoon said.